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Students express passion to turn Blue Earth downtown green

By Staff | Nov 23, 2009

An ad hoc Blue Earth committee got an earful on Thursday morning.

The committee was formed by Mayor Rob Hammond, and is made up of several citizens, the city administrator, the chamber director and one city council member.

Their directive is to study the plans for upgrading Highway 169 through Blue Earth in 2013, and reconstruction of two blocks of Main Street, downtown, in 2012.

They plan to work with state and county engineers, construction crews, and local business owners. The committee wants to make sure everyone is aware of the projects, and to facilitate dialog concerning the proposed street/highway improvements.

Another goal is to try and make any improvements to the area along the affected streets as can be done.

In that light, the committee listened to a report from a class at Blue Earth Area High School on Thursday.

Science teacher Mark Franta’s ecology class has been working with Jennifer Ronnenburg of the Soil and Water Conservation office. The class has recently completed a storm water assessment of Main Street in Blue Earth, and wanted to make the ad hoc committee aware of their findings.

Their presentation was impressive.

The student’s main concern was storm water runoff. In an urban setting such as Blue Earth’s business district, the biggest problem, according to the students, is the prevalence of impervious surfaces.

In other words, all the paved streets, concrete sidewalks, and parking lots, create a big concern when it rains.

Besides flooding concerns, the other larger headache is water quality.

The class members explained how storm water picks up a tremendous amount of contaminant as it wends its way to its ultimate destination. In the case of the City of Blue Earth, that destination is the Blue Earth River.

As part of their report, they showed photos of downtown, which included closeups of clogged storm drains. Leaves, dirt, trash and car oil makes its way to the drain, they pointed out.

Their proposal was to make downtown Blue Earth less blue and more green. They wanted more planning for rain runoff which would include vegetation such as flowers, trees and grass, and less use of concrete and pavement.

They also pointed out that there are pervious surfaces which could be used, such as permeable asphalt and paver blocks. Another suggestion was a new style of storm drain grates which keeps material out, while letting water in.

It was obvious the class had done their homework, were knowledgeable in their topic, and were bubbling with some ideas.

But more than that, many of them had an absolute passion for going green. They are concerned with what is happening to their environment, both locally and world-wide.

They want to make changes in the way people see the world around them, and to conserve our natural resources, and protect the environment.

It was amazing to see this kind of enthusiasm in the youth of today.

Five of the students stayed after the formal presentation and wanted to vent some more ideas to the committee.

They had concerns about downtown Blue Earth which went far beyond proper water drainage.

They wanted to know what the committee members could do to put some sparkle into downtown Blue Earth.

“We love Blue Earth, it’s our hometown,” one student said. “But downtown needs some fixing up.”

Another student said she and her mother shop Blue Earth all the time, but said the downtown looks boring and dull. She suggested a makeover to make it more attractive to shoppers and visitors.

Wow. That is exactly what has been discussed at chamber meetings by adults. But these were kids – who were right on with all of their comments.

One suggested that when the streets are all torn up, it would be a great time to fix up the downtown buildings, store fronts and signs. It is exactly what has been expressed by members of the ad hoc committee.

“We just want our town to look nice so we can be proud of it,” they said.

Out of the mouths of babes…