Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Day 2, Monday, May 2, 2016 Palo, Iowa to Worthington, Minnesota

 “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent arriving.”  Lao Tzu

The Roads
Driving through Iowa after leaving Palo was pleasant with fair skies and mild temperatures.  While wind turbines are plentiful in this area they were making no electricity today as there was not the hint of a breeze.  This would have been a perfect day for cross-country bicycling as wind, when blowing head-on, is the bane of traveling through this part of the country as I learned in 2014.  Taking back roads until hitting Hwy 218/18 to Hwy 35 and then I 90, there was no construction until near the town of Blue Earth, Minnesota.  It was here that a 20-mile stretch may be under construction for quite some time.  Even so, it was a day of good traveling.

Olson Park and Campground
Worthington, Minnesota was a great stop for the night with its friendly citizens and lovely park that sits alongside a picturesque lake that seems to be the central point for recreational activity.  Signs noting small floating vegetative islands are posted alongside a walking/biking pathway and notes that this project is directed at creating an environmentally friendly way to

purify the water and create habitat for fish and fowl.  With only 12,000+ population it somehow seems bigger and perhaps this is due to the presence of Minnesota West Community and Technical College as well as what they call their “Active Living Plan.”  This project, created by the city, developed by the Southwest Regional Development Commission and funded by the Statewide Health Improvement Program is designed to make the city a “more walkable and rideable community.”  My kind of city!!!!  Near Olson Park Campground that sits alongside the lake, the homes are modern, well maintained, and passersby smile and offer greetings in the typical Midwestern fashion.  I could live here easily.

We were just packing up to leave when Andrea observed that a crew had just arrived and were working on additional “floating islands” that were to be placed in the lake.  Taking the opportunity to chat with this crew, I met Dan Livdahl, Administrator of the Okabena Ocheda Watershed District, who was overseeing a work crew of young adults.  Articulate and personable, he explained that these “biohaven floating islands,” designed to remove excess nutrients from waterbodies and provide habitat for aquatic life, were a relativly new project that depended upon public and private funding.  Each island,
planted with grasses and flowering species, cost about $1500.  The materials of construction are fairly unique and challenges facing the project aside from cost has been finding a way to prevent their unmooring when subjected to 40 to 50 mph prairie winds.  Another, how to prevent geese from taking over and destroying the vegetation on these floating sanctuaries during their nesting season.  Both challenges are being tackled with better anchoring and fencing that discourages nesting.  Even so, the droppings from the geese seemed to “provide additional nutrients” and the floating islands recovered well.  This progressive and ingenious approach to environmental preservation is yet another example of how the city of Worthington seems foster creative approaches to fostering an enviable quality of life for and by its citizens.

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