Earth Day and beyond: Spring activities (fingers crossed)

Family with trash bags

Though we're not sure what will happen in April, we are sure we'll find and share ways to work toward river health (and human health!) this Earth Day.

Most of FMR's spring events take place in May and early June. For the moment, these events are open for registration. Our fingers crossed, we'll be able to get back out there to restore riverfront habitat soon.

So please do sign up!

Naturally, we're watching health guidelines carefully. If you register, we may end up emailing you to support independent restoration outings instead, but we'll be sure to send detailed location and training information to help you do the most good.

We're also still offering registration for small group and educational programs in late-spring, summer or fall.

We know these are uncertain times, and we're grateful you're still planning to steward the river this spring. We hope riverside trails and the river's waters give you a chance to relax in the coming weeks, and we'll be in touch as the coronavirus impacts unfold.

Independent cleanups for Earth Day

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has announced that the citywide Earth Day cleanup has been canceled, following guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control. This means we won't be hosting our usual sites along West River Parkway this April.

Although we're sad that we won't be able to greet the spring with hundreds of you at this annual event, we can still all celebrate Earth Day together!

We're encouraging everyone who planned to attend the cleanup to host your own, independent cleanup for Earth Day instead. We hope that individuals and families will pick up trash in their neighborhood, or in their local parks (while following precautions such as avoiding large groups, not touching your face while maintaining a safe distance from others.)

For more details on how to get involved, please email Sophie Downey, volunteer@fmr.org to sign up for the River Gorge Stewards email list. We'll send out instructions and details for your independent outing, plus information on how to share the good work that you do for Earth Day.

And if you'd like to participate online only, it's likely we'll have an Earth Day message to legislators for river friends to send to their representatives. Sign up to be a River Guardian to make it easy to advocate for the river on Earth Day and beyond!

Spring volunteer events

Habitat restoration season begins in May, also known as "garlic mustard month" here at FMR!

Removing or reducing garlic mustard is important when re-establishing habitat for river corridor wildlife. Many animals and insects -- including bees, butterflies and other pollinators -- rely on native plants that can be outcompeted by garlic mustard.

We're not sure if we'll be able to proceed with all of our May and June events as planned, but if you register (please do) we'll stay in touch with updates. (We may end up emailing you to support independent volunteering instead. In that case, we'll be in touch with detailed location and training information.)

Check out our events calendar, then register with Sophie Downey at sdowney@fmr.org or 651.222.2193 x27. Please include your name, address (or just city and ZIP) and the name of the event(s) you'd like to sign up for.

Late-spring and summer stenciling outings

Once it's safe for groups to convene... Storm drain stenciling is a great activity for families, clubs, classes and groups to get outside and help the Mississippi River. We also offer kits that make it easy for groups of 20 or fewer to independently volunteer.

Pieces of trash large and small (especially cigarette butts), winter road salt, leaf litter and grass clippings all contribute large amounts of pollution to metro waters. To reduce this pollution, FMR coordinates the storm drain stenciling program for the city of St. Paul.

Volunteers mark drains with messages about how the drains connect to the Mississippi. They also distribute related educational materials to neighborhood residents. A typical stenciling outing lasts 1.5-2 hours and needs to take place when the streets are dry. We're now scheduling these outings for late-spring and summer 2020.

Learn more or schedule your outing today. 
• If you have a group of 20 or more, you can arrange a stenciling outing led by FMR staff by filling out our stenciling request form or contacting Administrative and Program Assistant Ashley O'Neill Prado at aprado@fmr.org.
• If you have fewer than 20 people, we can help you coordinate your own outing with the FMR storm drain stenciling kit.

Educational programs

Though all FMR outings feature educational content, we've also developed interactive presentations about our river.

(Again, when it's safe for groups to convene, we'll start these up, though you can register now.) FMR staff visit groups in St. Paul and youth groups in Minneapolis and the Vermillion River Watershed to conduct hands-on indoor activities. We cover topics like watersheds, runoff pollution, erosion and sedimentation, wetlands, invasive species and other water quality issues. Presentations are approximately one hour long, are age-appropriate and can be customized for your group.

These programs do need to be indoors or have access to electricity. To schedule a program (available year-round), contact Youth Coordinator Kate Clayton at kclayton@fmr.org.

What about coronavirus?

We're watching the CDC and Minnesota Department of Health guidelines closely. If plans change based on their recommendations, FMR Volunteer Coordinator Sophie Downey will email registrants with event updates. (Be sure to add sdowney@fmr.org to your contacts so updates don't land in spam.)