While digging in the dirt and tossing mulch aren’t typically what brings people to the library, Monday, June 21, and Tuesday, June 22, weren't exactly normal days at the Cloquet Public Library.

Library staff, some local kids and members of Cloquet’s Boy Scout Troop 171 worked with Alyssa Bloss, a conservation specialist with the Carlton County Soil and Water Conservation District, to install a rain garden in a corner on 14th Street in Cloquet.

Bloss said the library was awarded a $1,500 grant from Lake Country Power’s Operation Round Up program to plant the garden and, hopefully, prevent more stormwater from reaching the local water supply. The native plants will help improve the quality of the soil and some, like milkweed, are a source of food for pollinators.

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Carlton County Soil and Water Conservation District conservation specialist Alyssa Bloss helps install a rain garden at the Cloquet Public Library Tuesday, June 22, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb / jmalcomb@pinejournal.com)
Carlton County Soil and Water Conservation District conservation specialist Alyssa Bloss helps install a rain garden at the Cloquet Public Library Tuesday, June 22, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb / jmalcomb@pinejournal.com)

“These native plants have root systems up to 15 feet deep,” Bloss said. “They’re great at filtering out pollutants, and they can actually break through that clay layer and fill up the soil with nutrients. Then the above ground vegetation is really great habitat for pollinators. We try to plant species that bloom at different times of the season, so there’s always a food source.”

Bloss worked with library teen services coordinator Justin Dinger to set up a rain garden camp. Last week, the group of eight to 10 kids, which included several members of the Boy Scout troop, came in and learned about the benefits of a rain garden and selected the site to install the garden.

They dug out the 20-foot by 15-foot space and then filled it with topsoil and mulch, materials provided by the city of Cloquet. After the hard work of digging and spreading mulch was done, the group got to plant a number of native plant species to encourage healthy pollinators and keep some of the stormwater from hitting the city’s drains.

Jaylord Selrico,  14, of Cloquet shovels mulch into the new rain garden at the Cloquet Public Library Tuesday, June 22, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb / jmalcomb@pinejournal.com)
Jaylord Selrico, 14, of Cloquet shovels mulch into the new rain garden at the Cloquet Public Library Tuesday, June 22, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb / jmalcomb@pinejournal.com)

Dinger said he hopes the rain garden can be an example to the community and show what plants grow well in the area.

“We also need to be good stewards of our community, and the rain garden helps us capture a lot of the rainfall that comes off our roof,” Dinger said. “Just by having the native plants on site, we can be a good example to the community to show what grows well here and what is good in terms of the environment.”

Matthew Mangan, 12, a member of Boy Scout Troop 171, said he was happy to help and hopes the community can learn from the example, too.

“I like being able to plant it for the community to see,” he said. “Hopefully, they can learn from it and plant their own gardens, and we can have more butterflies around.”