Minnesota Cities Magazine
More from Nov-Dec 2019 issue

Two-Way Street: How Does Your City Coordinate Its GreenStep Cities Program?

MARY HOOLEY
Greenstep Advisory Committee Member
Scandia (Population 4,049)
Just over a decade ago, a citizen brought the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program idea to the Scandia City Council. GreenStep Cities is a voluntary program that helps cities meet their sustainability goals. Though it was slow to take hold, the Council authorized the city to participate in the program in May 2014.

Volunteer involvement

Our support for GreenStep policies and environmental improvements has advanced significantly since 2014. Much of this momentum can be attributed to volunteers.

GreenStep principles are now an even stronger part of our City Council’s decision-making process, thanks in part to the support of our current mayor, Christine Maefsky, who took office in 2017. Mayor Maefsky’s involvement has been a critical part of energizing the community’s efforts, but volunteers remain an essential part of the program.

Establishing a committee

A small group of citizens came together to form Scandia’s GreenStep Advisory Committee to continue the city’s sustainability efforts. This group implemented and documented the needed best practices, as outlined by the program.

One of the most influential activities of the committee has been a speaker series offered to the public at no cost with community partners like the Friends of Scandia Parks and Trails and the neighboring Marine Community Library. Topics have included providing education on recycling issues, building resiliency to climate change, and identifying ways community members can be better stewards of our climate. There has been a great deal of interest in these events, with some attracting as many as 150 attendees.

We are also proud of other projects, which include providing maps of the city’s bike trails, approving a city policy of purchasing sustainably produced products when possible, and adopting a solar farm and garden ordinance. Scandia achieved Step 2 in May 2018, and Step 3 in May 2019.

Benefits to the city

The GreenStep Cities program has been very beneficial to Scandia. It has helped the city reduce its environmental impact while saving money. It has also helped us educate the public about sustainability concerns and possible solutions. The program has provided great tools that help us as we seek to address the challenges of climate change.

PATTY NORGAARD
EDA Commission Member
Crosslake (Population 2,250)
Crosslake, located on the Whitefish Chain of Lakes in west central Minnesota, is just beginning its third year of membership in the Minnesota GreenStep Cities initiative. Although we’ve only been involved a short time, we have worked diligently to follow the best practices as outlined by the program.

Collaborative effort

In our small community, we are fortunate to have the Crosslake Economic Development Authority (EDA) administer our GreenStep Cities program, while keeping it relevant to us and keeping the community informed. This is helpful because our city staff does not have the capacity to do it.

Along with the EDA, we also have a large group of volunteers that includes city and county staff and a community team called the Crosslakers. The Crosslake EDA, the Crosslakers, and the Water Quality Group meet monthly or more if needed. This brings continuity, support, and energy to our projects.

For example, the Water Quality Group has begun a project to address stormwater runoff that flows directly into the Whitefish Chain. This is a collaborative effort of the city, county, and Whitefish Area Property Owners Association.

Crosslake achieved Step 2 in the GreenStep program with its initial stormwater runoff project. Next will be a larger stormwater runoff project that will divert six runoffs. Once this initiative is completed, we will achieve Step 3.

Eye to the future

Our city is in a season of change, so we look at the future generations and what is going to appeal to them. We know our new audience is concerned about sustainability. And since Crosslake is on the Whitefish Chain of Lakes, our focus must be on the environment, which includes water quality, climate change, and forest management — all working to sustain an economic vitality in our community.

Helpful guidance

The 29 best practices of the GreenStep Cities program provide the guidance we need. We try to apply the best practices in a way that makes sense to our community and makes us all more environmentally aware. The GreenStep program gives us the tools to accomplish what we consider important in Crosslake.

Learn more about the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program at https://greenstep.pca.state.mn.us.

Read the Nov-Dec issue of Minnesota Cities magazine

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