SCP Project Outcomes in the City of Elk River

by Kristin Mroz, Environmental Technician, City of Elk River


The City of Elk River and the University of St. Thomas have partnered to advance Elk River’s sustainability goals while developing student problem-solving abilities and innovation through the University of St. Thomas’ Sustainable Communities Partnership (SCP).

As the partnership liaison with Elk River, I worked with Maria Dahmus to link our city’s sustainability projects with existing courses at the University of St. Thomas.  Through the program, students apply what they learn in coursework to develop innovative and creative solutions for the city.  Students gain real-world experience and Elk River gains creative ideas to move our sustainability projects forward, a win-win partnership. 

These projects have been essential in city operations. City staff are utilizing project reports, research, and data already, allowing the city to move forward with sustainability projects that would not have been completed at this time if not for SCP assistance.

Here are project outcomes for the City of Elk River during our first partnership year.


Spring 2016

Bike Route Analysis (GEOG 321)

Environmental and Planning departments have begun using this GIS data to create a Complete Streets Policy, aimed at increasing bikeability in the community.

Decreasing Use of Plastic Shopping Bags (THEO 422)

The Environmental Division will be meeting with county staff to discuss a county-wide ban or incentive program for decreasing the use of plastic shopping bags, reducing the amount of litter in our community.

Green Roof Design (ESCI 310)

This project design was funded for implementation in the 2017 year!  Our staff have learned a lot about the process of a green roof and are excited to see the finished project.

Park Trail Mapping (GEOG 321)

This information will be used to create a new and accurate map of trails at our newest park, the William H. Houlton Conservation Area.

Wetland Buffer Assessment (GEOG 321 and Public Policy)

The Environmental Division budgeted $5,000 for a buffer rebate program to start in 2017. The program will encourage property owners to restore buffers along wetlands and other water bodies.


Fall 2016

Climate Adaptation (HIST 298)

Students from the class presented their report to the City Council at their December 19th meeting. This information will be shared with the Energy City Commission and used to plan for climate resilience in the community.

Creating a Solar Powered Picnic Table Prototype (ENGR 480)

The design phase of this project is complete, and the building phase will continue into the spring semester. We are excited to have seen the plan for our solar powered picnic table that will be used to charge cell phones, tablets, and laptops at one of our destination parks, Lake Orono, and serve as a solar energy demonstration site.

Decreasing use of Polystyrene (THEO 422)

The Environmental Division will be meeting with county staff to discuss a county-wide ban of polystyrene, reducing the amount of litter in our community. This ban is now in place in Minneapolis and St. Louis Park. We are interested in being the first county or outer-ring suburb to put a ban in place.

Evaluating Current Solid Waste Rate Structure (ECON 332)

The calculations and data collected by this project will assist city staff in restructuring residential solid waste rates.

Examining Effects of Climate Change on Tree Species (BIOL 335)

The information collected as a part of this project will be used by the Sherburne County Soil and Water Conservation District as well as our Parks and Recreation and Streets staff to determine the most resilient tree species to plant in our community so that we have a tree canopy for years to come. This information will also be published for our residents and will be included in our Complete Streets Policy.

Fostering Sustainable Behaviors for City Employees (PSYC 342)

The Environmental Division is excited to use this project to continue sustainable behavior changes in city staff. Additionally, this information was shared with the Great Plains Institute who will utilize it to create Minnesota community campaign projects.

German Translation for Elk River's Climate-Smart Municipalities Partnership (GERM 300)

As a part of our German partnership in Climate-Smart Municipalities, translation is a necessary step to move forward on projects. The translation of these materials from our German city partner will allow Elk River to conduct a video contest geared toward K-12 students to promote sustainability and climate change efforts.

Park Trail Mapping (GIS 321)

Two more parks, Hillside Park and Woodland Trails Park, were mapped using GIS, creating useful tools for city staff to monitor park maintenance and assist with emergency management staff.

Modeling Pollutant Levels in Lake Orono after Rainfall Events (BIOL 435)

This project resulted in coordination between city and county staff to collect more data at the county level, change our sampling schedule at the city level, and continue monitoring results. This project will be continued in future semesters.


Learn about our fall 2017 projects with the Sustainable Communities Partnership here.