Lake Crystal focuses on trees, water on Arbor Day

Apr. 28—By Tim Krohn

A new focus on trees, along with ongoing efforts at improving water quality in the lakes in Lake Crystal, was the focus of Arbor Day activities Friday.

"We've just become a Tree City," said City Administrator Angie Grafstrom.

Tree City USA was started in 1976 by the national Arbor Day Foundation and is its oldest program, aimed at inspiring the planting and care of more trees across the country.

Starting with just 42 communities in 16 states, the program today includes more than 3,600 communities from all 50 states.

The city of Lake Crystal has budgeted funding for more tree planting and completed other requirements to become certified, including having a tree ordinance, spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry and celebrating Arbor Day each year.

Lake Crystal has in recent years increased its focus on trees, including giving away 40 trees to local residents this year, hosting tree-planting events, establishing a "tree farm" in Jones Park on the south edge of the city and expanding its Arbor Day activities.

This year continued to meld the benefits of trees with the ongoing efforts by the city and the Crystal Waters Project, which works to improve water quality in the Crystal Lake watershed. Friday's events included the unveiling of a sculpture by artist Julie Dempster.

"We're creating a new little park between Ace Hardware and the new Infusion Bakery," said Grafstrom of the site where the new sculpture was unveiled.

City Councilor Gina Cooper, who is also on the board of Crystal Waters Project, said the small metal sculpture is aimed at helping people relate to where they are in the watershed.

"It shows the lakes and rivers in the area," Cooper said.

The sculpture shows Lily, Crystal and Loon lakes, as well as Minneopa Creek, the Minnesota River and farm drainage ditches that flow into the lakes.

The work follow's Dempster's installation last year of a similar piece in Riverfront Park in Mankato.

That piece, called Mahkato Mni, is intended to help people realize "we live in a concentrated watershed and we are all connected by water," Dempster said when it was installed.

Other Arbor Day events included kids' reading times, tree planting and seminars on plastic recycling and how to create a pollinator garden.

"It's a partnership between the city and Crystal Waters Project," said Cooper of the events.

The Waters Project has a number of programs in the works, including using a $26,000 grant from the Board of Water and Soil Resources.

"It's (being used) for a pollinator garden at Jones Park and a lakeshore restoration addition at Robinson Park." The work at Robinson Park, next to the boat landing, has focused on restoring the former swim beach area into rain gardens and butterfly pollinator gardens.

She said there are also grants of up to $1,500 for landowners who do lakeshore restoration, as well as grants of $250 and $500 for residents who install rain or pollinator gardens.

And a major focus is on studying ways to continue improving the area around Ditch 56, which feeds into Crystal Lake from the farmland south of Lake Crystal.

Last winter, sediment was removed around the ditch, and Crystal Waters is studying projects to prevent sediment from the ditch from entering the lake.

"We're hoping to reduce sediment into the lake, maybe through sediment (retention) ponds along the ditch," Cooper said.