City, SWCD complete Rec Park buffer zone

A completed park buffer winds from the walking bridge in Milaca’s Rec Park to the canoe access in the park’s north end.
A completed park buffer winds from the walking bridge in Milaca’s Rec Park to the canoe access in the park’s north end.


A well-loved park in Milaca has gotten a water quality makeover. The City of Milaca has partnered with the Mille Lacs Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) to install a riparian buffer along the Rum River in Recreation Park. The buffer is part of the walking bridge replacement project and will protect the river by slowing down and absorbing polluted runoff before it can enter the Rum River.

A riparian buffer is a strip of vegetation that grows along a river bank and serves to protect the shoreline from erosion and the river itself from sediment and polluted runoff. The Rec Park buffer winds along the Rum River from the new walking bridge to the canoe access at the north end of the park. It has several 6 foot wide access paths running through the buffer so people will have access to the river for recreation. The buffer is planted in native grasses and over 40 different kinds of native wildflowers including  Lupine, Black-eyed-Susan’s, Wild Bergamot, Prairie rose, Yellow coneflowers and showy New England asters.  Native plants were used because of their hardiness, beauty and extensive root systems that will help rain water penetrate into the ground.

Mille Lacs SWCD Conservation Technician Lynn Gallice said, “Native plants start out slow, using their energy to develop extensive root systems. They may be just a few inches tall a year from now but their roots could be several times that long. It will take a few years for the grasses to reach their full height but we might see some of the flowers that were planted as plugs (small plants) blooming next year.”

The City of Milaca prepped the site for the project and crews from Prairie Restoration’s Inc., planted the seed, covered it with erosion control fabric and planted plugs into the erosion control fabric.  The fabric will keep the soil from eroding until the vegetation has grown in and will also help to control weeds.

The plans to replace the old walking bridge provided a great opportunity to also protect water quality in the Rum River. The City of Milaca worked with former Rep. Gail Kulick to have the walking bridge replacement project included in the State Bonding Bill and the Mille Lacs SWCD was able to assist with funding and technical assistance to install the buffer.

Said Milaca City Manager, Greg Lerud, “This project was a long time in coming, but it came together very nicely in the end to both enhance park facilities and improve water quality. The buffer will be a nice addition to the park, and still allow access for fishing and other river activities. We look forward to completing the area between the bridge and the old dam next summer.”