Raymond Park

An oak tree savannah towers over the park trails and shoreline at Raymond Park in Spring Lake Township.

Residents are invited to experience local natural areas in a new ways in celebration of the Prior Lake-Spring Lake Watershed District’s 50th Anniversary this summer.

The “Hike the Watershed” challenge highlights local parks and smaller lakes in the watershed, while also providing an opportunity to learn more about the district’s restoration projects.

To play along, download the watershed’s map and bingo card and head out to explore.

Have you spotted an eagle or a Great Blue Heron? Do you see a kayaker or someone walking their dog? Such sightings could earn you a mark on the watershed’s bingo card, available at www.plslwd.org/50th-anniversary-of-the-district.

Eleven park and lake destinations are included in the watershed challenge.

Hike the watershed

“Hike the Watershed” challenge map.

A commemorative “Hike the Watershed” waterproof sticker prize goes out to anyone who visits at least six places, or scores a bingo. A blackout bingo card earns additional prizes.

To participate and collect prizes, send a list of where you visited — along with a photo from your adventure and/or bingo card — to kkeller-miller@plslwd.org. The challenge is open-ended with no set end-date, according to the district.

“It ended up working out really well that everyone is kind of hanging close to home and looking for things to do,” said Kathryn Keller-Miller, the district’s water resources assistant, adding Pike Lake and the district’s wetland project are some of her favorite — but lesser-known — spots to visit.

The district’s stated mission is to maintain, preserve and restore the watershed so it can be enjoyed by people and wildlife alike.

The wetland across the road from Sailer’s Greenhouse on the southeast corner of Marshall Road and 170th Street is one of their success stories.

The district worked to establish wetland basins on the former farmland.

“We humans like to change things to suit our needs,” Keller-Miller said, adding a part of the district’s work is to restore land to its original use.

Today, the wetland is flourishing with native grasses and an unpaved trail weaves around the three wetlands to offer a closer look.

Spring Lake Wetland Project

The Prior Lake-Spring Lake Watershed District’s wetland project on the southeast corner of Marshall Road and 170th Street is a hotspot for grasshoppers, ducks and other wildlife. The native grasses planted several years ago are flourishing after taking a couple years to establish their root systems.

Wetland visitors are likely to be surprised by the sudden leap of grasshoppers, the buzz of a passing-by dragonfly or a trail-going killdeer. On the water, herons, egrets and geese are often spotted.

Another spot on the “Hike the Watershed” map is Raymond Park.

Several years ago the district did a large buckthorn removal project at the park and seeded with native species.

The park’s oak tree savanna offers visitors a hybrid between a forest and a prairie, Keller-Miller said. It’s open underneath, but the trees tower overhead.

Last year, the district also enhanced the shoreline of Fish Lake Park by reducing invasive specifies and adding native plants.

Native plants have really deep root systems, so they’ll take some time to become beautiful, Keller-Miller said. Strong root systems are great for holding soil in place and drought tolerance, but these plants prefer to spend the first few years working on what’s underground before flourishing above ground.

Keller-Miller said improving water quality in local lakes and carp management continue to be some of the district’s main focuses.

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