Kelly McCann – Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, Saint Paul, MN


We had one of those breezy, sunny, high-of-75 days, perfect for our biggest volunteer event of the year, National Public Lands Day. Our first volunteers stepped off the bus at 8:15 AM and were much more chipper than I expected, perhaps it was the beautiful weather, but I’m guessing it was the free T-shirt, bagels, and coffee courtesy of REI.

Historic Coldwater Spring House
Historic Coldwater Spring House

Coldwater Spring is the only part of the 72 mile stretch of river in the park that is owned by the National Park Service. Remember, folks, that we are an urban park, only around since the late 80s, so MISS was founded under the new, urban NPS partnership park plan. We love working with all our partners, but Coldwater, needless to say, has a warm place in the collective MISS heart. It was reclaimed from the Bureau of Mines and has since been transformed from a concrete compound to a beautiful mosaic of prairie, oak savanna, and floodplain forest. It’s always been our ‘park in progress,’ but after this weekend, I think we can say it officially looks like a fully-fledged park!

We had 3 planting locations, of which I was assigned the pollinator patch! We had 60 volunteers and 1000 plants to put in the ground in two hours. Let the craziness begin! 

A CVA in front of and behind the camera! Photo cred to Quinn Feller
A CVA in front of and behind the camera! Photo cred to Quinn Feller

I was also involved in seed collecting, which we had volunteers do after we were finished planting! I backed this addition to NPLD volunteer stations because of my new Native Prairie Plant Nursery (read more here). The few local schools participating are thrilled to have locally-collected volunteer-collected native seed for their nurseries in the spring. I met with the land manager to figure out what forbs would be ideal to collect this time of year and what would be ideal to have seedlings to plant next summer. He even agreed to give me the left over planting trays and to put any seed we needed to buy into his budget!

I had a blast teaching (and learning from!) volunteers
I had a blast teaching (and learning from!) volunteers. Photo credit: Quinn Feller

Seriously though, NPLD was what this job is all about for me. Getting out, connecting with people, talking to volunteers about the River and my job at the park, and making sure that they have such a great day that when they come back to volunteer, they bring everyone and their mother with them.

Cheers to everyone at MISS and MPC for a fun and successful event!