Mill Pond to get prairie restoration project

By Kurt Nesbitt

The Post-Bulletin, Austin MN

Mill Pond prairie restoration

1.5 acres- included in the project

$5,000- grant that is funding the project

6- different city and county organizations involved with the project

A section of Horace Austin Park will go back to the way it once was now that the Austin City Council has given the green light to a prairie restoration project and a rain garden there.

The council approved a cost-sharing agreement Monday night with a non-profit organization that granted the money for the project.

Work will start on two pieces of land beside the pedestrian bridge that runs along Fourth Avenue Northeast. The project could expand into the whole section south of the intersection of Fourth Avenue Northeast and Hormel Century Parkway.


The area will be treated for weeds and non-native grasses and readied for the Memorial Day planting while the project's partners finalize their work plans, said Mark Owens, vice president of the local Izaak Walton League.

"It's a very appropriate use for someone to do something like that in that area," said Owens.

The project will buffer any runoff from the streets and help improve the quality of the water in the Cedar River, which runs through Mill Pond. The project will also add flowering plants and increase the amount of insects for the martin population, Owens said.

Justin Hanson, resource specialist for the Mower County Soil Water and Conservation District, warned that the area isn't going to look good for the first two years, but will take off after the native plants take root.

The city isn't paying anything for the project but is contributing services and labor to the project. Council member Jeff Austin said the project is the first of its kind.

The city is one of a few partners in the project. The local Izaak Walton League learned about grant money and developed the plan with the help of Austin's Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Mower County Soil and Water Conservation District. Volunteers from Spruce Up Austin and the Austin Coalition for Environmental Sustainability will do the planting, according to Owens. Austin Public Schools will also use the area as an outdoor classroom.

The project is one of the latest meant to address the quality of the water in the Cedar River, but is just one one project among others aimed at improving water quality, Hanson said.

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