Brainstorm on “green campus” ideas June 29


Underground it’s a sinkhole. Long John Pond, a mosquito-ridden bog was there in the late 1800s and before Shoreham Yard was built.

Today, the neighbors come here to walk their dogs, play Frisbee, explore the musical instruments and sculptures, and enjoy movies under the stars. Hundreds of students, teachers, staff, and teams who rent the fields for tournaments pound the grass, parking lots and other pavement around Edison High School, in Jackson Park and the nearby basin.

The high school’s put a new all-systems focus on being green (see article in this Northeaster, page 7). With so many young people potentially affected, there’s a move afoot to eliminate harmful chemicals outdoors. There’s also opportunity for cost-saving and efficiently sharing services such as mowing. A more complicated goal is to capture and use most all stormwater on site.

The public’s invited to learn and brainstorm about the “Northeast Green Campus” effort on Wednesday, June 29, 6:30-8:00 p.m. at the Eastside Food Coop’s Granite Studio, 2551 Central Ave. NE.

“We’ll be at the concrete discussion, planning phase, and want to stimulate conversation and take advantage of the insights of people who live nearby…We’re not the Soviet Republic of Water Management,” said First Ward City Council Member Kevin Reich, but with this focus there will be “tech people around for a couple of years,” and a lot of information and services available that residents may want to latch onto. “I’ve bumped into several people who live in the area and are excited about it.”

The effort kickstarted with grants from Mississippi Watershed Management Organization and coordination by Preventing Harm Minnesota, a nonprofit organization that works to protect children from environmental toxins. Bonestroo, an engineering, planning and environmental science firm, is looking at various engineering possibilities for capturing and recirculating runoff. And reportedly, managers from the park board, city public works, and the school district are figuring out how to work together.

Julia Earl of Preventing Harm Minnesota has been working with schools to reduce children’s exposure to toxins. She said statistics show the number one cause of absenteeism is asthma. The onset of puberty is getting younger and younger, and early puberty has been linked to breast cancer. Male sperm counts are down. Traditional cleaning chemicals contain “asthmagens” and typical weed killers act on the endocrine system, tied to reproduction.

Earl said Edison switched from broadcast to spot weed control and conducted a trial with pre-germinated grass seed, seed that gets soaked in water several times until it “looks white, and is just about ready to pop.” It’s spread with water and sand to help it disperse properly. Earl said the seed itself is not expensive but it is time intensive, a challenge for schools that have cut staff.

Bob Mugas, a turf management expert, “came out last summer and met with the grounds staff,” Earl said. “He showed how to prevent weeds through healthy turf; like the best (human) health care is positive preventive care.

“While the grounds staff has been receptive, general operations has approved the use of herbicides, so call your school administration and advocate” to not use herbicide, Earl urged.

Reich said he sees all sorts of possibilities for linking this project area to others. Stormwater management (in a sunken natural garden that accepts rain) at the nearby library makes a gateway to “go into the interior” and eventually toward the river. The Edison area, as shown during Art-A-Whirl, is a link to arts, and 22nd Avenue is a bike boulevard, leading to other bike trails heading west.

Artist Satoko Muratake, working with the Central Avenue Plan, “wanted to think about the area visually. She brought up the underground topography map. There’s what looks like a sinkhole pit where Edison school and the pond are. It was powerful metaphorically for her,” Reich said. Arts could be integrated into the green campus.

After Reich met Julia Earl and the managers for the parks, school, and public works got together, a team developed over about the last eight months around the grant application (which was accepted after rejection and rewrites). Edison’s Green Coordinator Ashley Mueller will be creating and teaching curriculum around the planning, so youth will be involved. “It’ll be field experience, hands-on learning. That’s what was so great about industrial arts, problem-solving with your hands,” Reich said.

More information on Preventing Harm Minnesota is at, Edison’s Green and Healthy Schools at, and the Mississippi Water Management Organization at