Arbor Lakes wildlife habitat enhancement project

Prairie restoration in progress

The Maple Grove Arbor Lakes wildlife habitat enhancement project aims to enhance wildlife habitat on about 50 acres of land surrounding the downtown lakes by restoring native prairie vegetation and removing weedy native and invasive nonnative woody plants.

A two-phase approach used for restoring prairie in the project area. Each phase involves about three years to establish prairie through select portions of the project area. This incremental approach results in very patchy-looking vegetation until the supplemental native plantings establish and “grow in” to fill the gaps. A goal in this approach is to preserve as much desirable pre-existing perennial vegetation cover for wildlife habitat and soil stability as possible while supplemental seeded areas establish over the next four to five  years.

This project is funded by a state grant from the MN DNR Conservation Partners Legacy Grant program. Project work for the initial phase of the restoration effort began in May 2022 and will continue through 2024.

The following is a summary of work to date and upcoming efforts.

Site preparation for native prairie seeding (June to October 2022)  

  • Invasive plants were spot sprayed throughout the project area to significantly reduce cover and eliminate seed production and further spread in preparation for seeding native prairie grasses.
  • Targeted invasive plants included Canada thistle, crown vetch, birds’-foot trefoil, and leafy spurge, among others.

Site preparation and 25 acres of native seeding (April to October 2023)

  • Prescribed burns were conducted in May to prepare for seeding native prairie grasses.
  • Native prairie grass seed was hand sown in late May/early June in areas prepped for seeding. The prairie grass mix included sideoats grama, little bluestem, big bluestem, and slender wheat grass. With rainfall picking up in July, sideoats grama seedlings have started to take hold and other native grasses will soon follow.
  • Invasive plants and other weeds have been periodically spot-mowed to prevent seed production while the native grasses start to establish.
  • Additional weed spot spraying is planned for late August and late September.
  • Additional areas will be prepared for seeding this fall through mowing and spraying to kill the existing nonnative grasses (smooth brome, Kentucky bluegrass).
  • Dry Prairie and Mesic Prairie native seed mixes with grasses, wildflowers, and sedges will be seeded in late fall in the upland areas prepared for seeding. A Wet Meadow native seed mix, with plants adapted to wet soils, will be sown along some of the pond shorelines.

Prairie grow-in maintenance and plug planting event (May to October 2024)

  • A volunteer event to plant 1,200 native prairie plugs will be held near the splash pad at Central Park.
  • Seeded areas will be mowed during the 2024 growing season to reduce competition from weeds for the establishing prairie seedlings. Wildflowers such as black-eyed susans may start to bloom in some of the seeded areas.
  • Some invasive plant spot spraying and spot mowing is anticipated to continue controlling select problematic weeds like crown vetch, birds’-foot trefoil, Canada thistle, and sweetclover.