10 Years of GreenStep

Crosslake on the crossroads of improving water quality

August 2020

Now in its 10th year, Minnesota GreenStep is a voluntary challenge, assistance, and recognition program to help cities and tribal nations achieve their sustainability and quality-of-life goals.

Pazey Yang, GreenStep intern at the Environmental Quality Board, connected with Patty Norgaard, GreenStep Coordinator with the City of Crosslake. Crosslake has been part of the GreenStep program since 2018 (see their progress).

At some point, we cannot destroy any more trees, we cannot overuse our lakes, at some point climate change will need to be brought into the conversation.

Patty Norgaard, GreenStep Coordinator with City of Crosslake

The City of Crosslake sits on the prized Whitefish Chain of Lakes. Patty Norgaard, Crosslake’s GreenStep Coordinator and former Mayor, is most proud of the city’s work on creating the Storm Sewer Run-off Project. The partnership between Crosslake and Crow Wing County Soil Water Conservation District (SWCD) addresses the considerable amount of salt, sand, and other runoff that were leaving direct impacts on the water quality of the chain. They received their first grant through the SWCD at the end of August this year, which will have completed the diversion of the runoff into a retention pond. Norgaard also mentions a second grant that will work toward directing runoff from four other storm sewers into retention ponds. These efforts play a huge role in maintaining the Whitefish Chain as the economic engine of the city; it’s an integral part of sustaining their businesses. 

Along with maintaining Crosslake’s economy, the GreenStep Cities program also helps in spreading awareness by acting as a bridge to forming a more progressive city. This opportunity allows for Norgaard to take a chance at further educating his community, stating that, “At some point, we cannot destroy any more trees, we cannot overuse our lakes, at some point climate change will need to be brought into the conversation. And while more and more people are becoming more aware of environmental changes, we have a ways to go in Crosslake.” The biggest hurdle being dealt with is how to make the community better understand the importance of restoration and conservation efforts of their natural resources. This is a concern because Norgaard knows that climate change will have effects on the water quality of the Whitefish Chain as well.

However, there is always hope in the hands of community engagement. The stormwater runoff project has become part of a larger organization: Water Quality Group. The group is led by county and city officials along with community volunteers. These actions will help the city continue with protecting the water quality critical to their livelihoods; it will also help with completing Step 3 requirements for the GreenStep program. With these efforts, Crosslake plans to have Step 3 completed by the League of Minnesota conference in 2021.

See Best Practice Actions for more information on holding community conversations about improving local water quality (19.2).


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