In the last ten years, Scott Kudelka has been meeting the many faces involved in cleaning up the Minnesota River, drawing them out to events, getting the word out on new efforts, sharing enthusiasm with experts and citizens across the Minnesota River Basin.
Upon moving here from Iowa, he first worked as a technician on a diagnostic study of the water quality and land use of the La Qui Parle Yellow Bank watershed. Through monitoring samples he helped inform experts on areas of focus in the water plan. He sampled for macrovertebrates, (leeches, stone flies, may flies, dragon flies and the like) and tried to determine what sections of the Minnesota River watershed needed site specific work. He learned more about the bacteria entering the Minnesota River from upstream in South Dakota where many of the feed lots are not regulated as well as they are in Minnesota.
He also began to meet some of the people in key organizations behind the movement for improving things along the Minnesota River, starting with Clean Up the River Environment (CURE).
In Sibley County, Scott worked as a water planner on two watershed projects, High Island and Rush River, continuing monitoring efforts and working with landowners on conservation methods as well. Here he became acquainted with the river community in Henderson who is very active in promoting environmental community-building efforts like the Hummingbird Hoorah. And later, through the Minnesota State University Mankato’s Water Resource Center, he coordinated the communication efforts of the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance, a group originally formed through volunteer efforts of three non-profit citizen led organizations along the Minnesota River – CURE, Friends of the Minnesota Valley, and Coalition to Clean Up the Minnesota River. Sharing news and events through newsletters and Ask An Expert video programs helped generate interest and momentum to keep citizens informed, engaged and growing. When he recently took a new position with the Department of Natural Resources as the Minneapa Area Naturalist, members of the Alliance presented him an award to honor his efforts at reporting on and scheduling their efforts.
As a North Dakotan, raised on the farm and with a lifetime of memories outdoors on the Sheyenne River, it’s not the Minnesota River itself that keeps Scott inspired. It’s the people. “I have never in my life met as many interesting and amazing characters. You cannot go up and down this valley without meeting the Dave Craigmile, Carmen Fernholz, Audrey Arner, Patrick Moore, Del Wehrspan, Scott Sparlin and Tom Kalahars of this river valley community. It is this collection of people. They don’t all believe or think the same way and they all have their opinions, but they all care a great deal.”
This chemistry and support between the people in communities along the river and how they collaborate seems to play a large role in the well-being and momentum on efforts across the Minnesota River Basin, Kudelka explained. After reporting on the multiple organizations and people working on the well-being of the Minnesota River through participation with the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance, he notes an increase in awareness of people self-organizing along the river to further support the movement to clean it up. Scott is not the only one aware of these efforts. Recently, Rebecca Wodder, Senior Adviser to Ken Salazar, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior, made a visit to encourage this group’s participation in nominating the Minnesota River as a National Blueway.
And the people of the Minnesota River Basin are lucky to have the opportunity to work with and share the enthusiasm so clearly generated by this positive and affirming individual. Next time you’re near Mankato or the Minneopa State Park, stop in and take in a hike, a geocaching lesson or a scenic view with Scott. It’s well worthwhile.