Today, less than 2% of Minnesota’s prairie habitat remains from the 18 million acres that stretched across the state from southeast to northwest. Three Rivers Park District started re-planting prairies in 1968 and has restored approximately 1,600 acres of prairie habitat. As the largest manager of prairie habitat in the Twin Cities area, that number should expand to 2,000 acres in the coming years.
Three Rivers Park District maintains large prairies at Crow-Hassan, Murphy-Hanrehan and Carver Park Reserves, and other prairies at Hyland Lake Park Reserve, The Landing, Bryant Lake, Kingswood, and French Regional Parks.
A variety of land management techniques are used during prairie restoration. Techniques include tree removal, invasive weed control, and prescribed burns to restore and reconstruct the tallgrass prairies. These activities are highly visible during the initial planting and establishment phase. Once the prairie starts to mature, the only noticeable management activity is prescribed burns.
There are a variety of plants found in prairie habitat. Prairie grasses and flowers are in bloom from April – October. Some of the common species found in many of Three Rivers’ restored prairies include:
- Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)
- Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
- Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum)
- Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha)
- Side-oats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula)
- Canada Wild Rye (Elymus canadensis)
- Blue Giant Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)
- Gray Goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis)
- Gray-headed Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)
- Lead Plant (Amorpha canescens)
- New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)
- Tall Cinquefoil (Potentilla arguta)
- Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea)
- Rough Blazing Star (Liatris aspera)
- Round-headed Bush Clover (Lespedeza capitata)
- White Prairie Clover (Dalea candida)
- Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)
- Wild Lupine (Lupinus perennis)
Crow-Hassan Park Reserve
Crow-Hassan Park Reserve in Hanover has over 840 acres of restored prairie. The majority of the prairie was planted in the 1970s, but a recent Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council Legacy grant allowed an additional 250 acres to be planted in 2015.
Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve
In Savage, Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve’s prairie was started in the mid-1980s and now spans over 400 acres, including 70 acres that were planted in 2014 using a MN Department of Natural Resources Conservation Partners Legacy grant. Long-term plans exist to tie the three main prairie units together with additional plantings.
Carver Park Reserve
The third largest prairie area is at Carver Park Reserve in Victoria. There has been a small prairie associated with Lowry Nature Center for over 20 years. In the fall of 2016, 165 acres were planted in part with funds from a MN Department of Natural Resources Conservation Partners Legacy grant. This site will be intensely managed for two years to help establish the native plants.
Prairie Seed Collection
Each year, hundreds of volunteers help increase the amount and diversity of seed planted in the more than 1,600 acres of restored prairie managed by Three Rivers Park District.
There are plenty of ways to volunteer in cooperation with the Three Rivers Department of Natural Resources. Put your time to good use by helping to protect and enrich our earth!