By Leslie Robertson
NASF Photo Fellow
Today I headed over to the DNR’s office to meet with Ken Holman, the DNR Community Forestry Director, where we planned out the day. I was also able to meet many of the leaders in the DNR office and say hi, which was great!
Our first stop was at Environmental Wood Supply, a biomass power plant co-owned by Ever-Green Energy and DTE St. Paul, LLC. I met with Jeff Guillemette, Ever-Green Energy Biomass Fuel Manager. He explained that they would take biomass from various sites within a certain radius, basically what was left over or unusable by others, and convert it into green energy.
To do this, they would bring raw materials to the yard and grind it up twice and process it to make pellets. If there was enough material and it was close enough, they could come and pick up the material for free, helping out all parties involved. I was especially impressed by the variety of material that they were able to use, from large stumps to random branches and everything in between. While we were there, several trucks came in and used a walking hydraulic system to slowly move the material out of the bed. Very interesting!
Next, Ken and I toured around the St. Paul/ Minneapolis area, focusing on urban forestry. The twin cities are filled with trees, and we stopped at several parks and boulevards where Ken was able to tell me more about each tree planted there. (He was truly a wealth of information!) We drove along the Green Line, a public transportation system that had tree troughs planted all along it. An innovative technique involving gravel beds was used to ensure the trees thrived—super cool.
After that, we visited the University of Minnesota Extension’s research tree nursery, where they studied new and different ways of raising trees. Although no one was there when we visited, it was easy to see how much care had been put into each tree. As someone who went to a very small college, it was fun to see the specialized research that could occur at a larger school.
It was time to meet up with Forrest Boe, Minnesota State Forester, for a short photo shoot!
On our way, we ran into a Pop-Up Temporary Tree Nursery right on a street corner. Ken explained how using the gravel beds cause the roots of the trees to grow a little differently, which makes them more likely to do well when they are transplanted. After picking up Forrest, we went to a few more parks and looked for a good place to get some pictures. We ended up in a small ravine, but I think I got some good shots, and had a great time conversing with Forrest and Ken. Forrest was very down-to-earth and such a good sport for having a camera in his face for two hours. At the end, we took a picture together “for my scrapbook”.
After we dropped Forrest back off at the Department of Natural Resources, Ken and I continued our tour to several vantage points to see the skyline (very different from Chicago’s!) and Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. We ended our tour at a very popular park with a band playing, which I thought fitting considering the awesome time I had in Minnesota. I left a little sad, with the consolation that I will be back for the NASF Annual Meeting in September. Everyone I met, talked to, and photographed was eager to help me, super knowledgable, and overall really nice.
Until next time, Minnesota!