Kermit the Frog once famously advised us, "It's Not Easy Being Green."
And it's not. Easy. Or fast. And it's sure as heck not cheap.
But - possibly without most people even noticing - the City of Storm Lake has made steady and impressive progress on urban environment. It's a "greener" community because of it, and belatedly, let's take a minute to credit current and past city councils, the mayor, the city administrator, and the former and current infrastructure managers.
There's been an awful lot of wrenching behind the scenes to make it all possible.
Finessing grant money again and again has made things possible that our local budgets alone never could. Our investments have been multiplied many times over.
The past several years have seen a massive stormwater project that has eliminated much of the flooding problem Storm Lake has always had, as well as preventing erosion and tainted runoff into lake. It's not a theme park, or a mall or a giant building, so such things can pass without a lot of notice or celebration. But we shouldn't let it - this work has put Storm Lake into the vanguard of water quality efforts nationally and will be copied by less progressive communities for many years. It has been a job well done.
Rain gardens in key areas now filter contaminants out of storm water before it flows into the lake, and add some native plant green appeal. They work.
And right now, the City is working on two "created wetland" projects. One will convert a crappy former lime treatment lagoon into something of environmental value, protecting the lake and providing habitat. Another will go into unusued land in the Field of Dreams area, handling water better to protect that highly-used site. Exceptional ideas.
I like green spaces, myself, and not every decision has been ideal in that regard. I thought too many trees were cut down in the campground and Mandeville park a few years ago, in worship of giant RV's. And I didn't believe the City had the right to sell off public land at the golf course for a developer to build condos in the middle of parkland - even if it had worked.
But other projects have accommodated nature with development.
The Awaysis Beach is a fantastic addition to Storm Lake, in what used to be a rocky-trashy area with a DNR shack. University Cove and Hidden Beach have been created from tangled, largely wasted areas and make our lake more family-useable. The Discovery Center has added some nice amenities for accessing and enjoying nature, without destroying it. Settling ponds in Sunrise Park are not only protecting the lake but attracting wild birds of all kinds.
New developments downtown are adding permeable pavers, plants, tree wells, and removing open downspouts, all of which make things just a little greener.
If this stuff sounds easy, it isn't. It has taken a lot of work, and networking with other organizations and groups, from the DNR that controls the waterfront to the government agencies that control the pursestrings. From Kiwanian volunteers who clean up Frank Starr Beach to the college people who built University Cove and give things a good cleaning each spring in Buenafication Days. Many have been involved in some way.
There's a lot more in the works.
More trails are needed. More small neighborhood parks. Making the dredge spoil sites into useful recreation areas. Additional care for the lake in a post-dredging era. A tree replacement program, and possibly the City's own tree nursery. More community gardens. A Mayor's committee on outdoor issues is being formed that we hope will actually have a public presence in addition to just advising city officials. Why not have those folks host public meetings and hear what the public wants?
My favorite might be the goats. In an age of high technology, chemicals and huge machinery, Storm Lake is using goats to curb overgrowth. It has a kind of hillbilly hippie vibe to it (see the film "Surfer, Dude"), but it works, and its cost-effective. Nature's lawnmowers. Can you high-five a hoof?
So many things done, and in discussion. Together, isolated, no single one of them may seem spectacular, and we many go about our lives scarcely noticing them.
Taken together, though, much has been done. It's been innovative, progressive and ambitious.
It hasn't been easy being green, but let's appreciate how far we have come, and the people who have helped us get there. And lets not quit now.