Kicking off the Rosemount Partnership

Mayor Bill Droste welcomes guests to the September 19 RCP kickoff event at the Rosemount Community Center

By Mike Greco

Only one month into the fall semester there is already an unseasonable chill in the air, but things are heating up in classrooms across the U of MN Twin Cities and Duluth campuses as more than 200 students in dozens of classes begin work on an impressive array of projects with the City of Rosemount, this year’s RCP partner community.

Today, Rosemount is a rapidly developing outer-ring suburb located 15 miles from the Twin Cities, but the city has a long and rich history. Settled by Scottish and Irish immigrants in the early 1850s, Rosemount organized as a township in 1858 and was incorporated as a city in 1974. Rosemount has a land area of nearly 36 square miles and is home to a mix of industry, commerce, agriculture, and residential development. With its population expected to double by 2040, Rosemount faces unique challenges and opportunities in the coming decades as it strives to become a more sustainable and resilient community.

In mid-September, Rosemount and RCP co-hosted an official kickoff event at the Rosemount Community Center to recognize the year-long partnership. More than 60 guests attended, included Mayor Bill Droste and city council members, state representative Anna Willis and state senator Greg Clausen, Dakota County planning director Kurt Chatfield, City staff, stakeholders from local businesses and community organizations, Rosemount residents, and U of MN faculty and students participating in RCP courses. Guests enjoyed food catered by Rosemount’s Rudy’s Redeye Grill, learned about the range of projects students and city staff will collaborate on this year, and had a chance to mingle and talk with other guests before and after the event.

This fall semester, RCP has matched 25 community-defined projects in Rosemount with more than 35 U of MN courses (view a complete list of projects and courses on our website). The projects are wide ranging and engage both undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of disciplines. Here are a few highlights:

Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Adaptation. As a rapidly growing suburban community, Rosemount is conscious of the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to prepare to adapt to a changing climate that is likely to produce more frequent severe rain events and place stress on infrastructure, environmental systems, and residents of the community. Working with city planner Jason Lindahl, a group of students in SUST 4004: Sustainable Communities (taught by lecturers Amir Nadav and Samantha Grover) will identify the major public and private sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Rosemount, establish a baseline for measuring future emissions in the community, and compile best practices from similar-sized suburban communities for reducing carbon and other greenhouse has emissions. Meanwhile, students in LAW 7012: Environmental Sustainability (taught by land use attorney Jean Coleman) will investigate potential local impacts of climate change in Rosemount, as well as specific regulatory and other strategies to reduce the community’s vulnerability to these impacts.

Daytime Staff at Rosemount Fire Department. Like many smaller and mid-sized communities in Minnesota, Rosemount depends largely on paid on-call volunteers to staff its fire department. Particularly during daytime hours, when volunteers may be at their full-time day jobs and unavailable to respond to a call, the fire department sometimes has to rely on neighboring communities’ fire departments to respond to emergency calls. How can the city attract more volunteers to serve their community during the day? In a project that is likely to be informative for many local communities in Minnesota who rely on volunteer fire fighters, students in HRIR 6301: Staffing, Training, and Development (taught by Dr. John Kammeyer-Mueller) and PSY 5707: Personnel Psychology (taught by Dr. Deniz Ones and Dr. John Campbell) will work with Rosemount Fire Chief Rick Schroeder to identify strategies to recruit and retain more on-call fire fighters during daytime hours.

Water Reuse and Conservation. Dwindling water resources are not just a concern in the western United States, but in Minnesota and much of the upper Midwest as well. In order to conserve water, Rosemount would like to learn about possible uses for storm water and treated wastewater for industry, irrigation, and other applications. Students in Dr. Matt Simcik’s PUBH 6132: Air, Water, and Health course will visit the Empire Wastewater Treatment Plant (which serves Rosemount and much of the south metro) and work with City Engineer and Public Works Director Andy Brotzler as part of their effort to provide Rosemount with practical ideas for water reuse and conservation. Meanwhile, students in LAW 7012: Environmental Sustainability will investigate some of the regulatory and other legal barriers to municipal water reuse and offer recommendations for how to address these obstacles.

Recreational Programming for Children’s Interaction with Nature. Recent studies by Richard Louv (author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder) and others have shown the beneficial effects of nature-based play for children, including improved social skills, problem-solving abilities, and interpersonal relationships, as well as reduced incidence of childhood obesity. Students in Dr. Tony Brown’s REC 3281: Research and Evaluation in Recreation, Park, and Leisure Studies course will work with Rosemount Parks Supervisor Tom Schuster to evaluate Rosemount’s current parks and recreation facilities with respect to the tenets of nature-based play. Another course at the University of Minnesota Duluth, ENED 4315: Operations & Management (taught by Dr. Ken Gilbertson), will make recommendations for how Rosemount can integrate nature-based play and environmental education into the parks and recreation system. In addition, students in LS 5100: Revitalizing Environmental Reform: Re-Imagining the Arts for Public Parks (taught by Roslye Ultan) will investigate opportunities for public art in Rosemount to inspire nature-based play and an appreciation for the natural world.

Cultural Integration. Like many suburban communities in Minnesota, Rosemount has a small but growing population of foreign-born residents from Latin America, Southeast Asia, Africa, the Russian republics, and the Middle East. City staff and elected officials recognize that current programs and services may not address the needs and interests of these new residents, and they would like to determine what can be done to make the community more inclusive. Working with Community Development Director Kim Lindquist and Recreation Supervisor Lisa Maurer, students in PA 5281: Immigrants, Urban Planning, and Policymaking (taught by Dr. Ryan Allen) will interview and survey local service providers and foreign-born residents to determine what programs, services, and activities are currently available in the Rosemount area to meet their specific needs and interests, as well as where gaps in services exist. Meanwhile, students in another course, PA 5253: Planning and Participation Processes (taught by Dr. Carissa Schively Slotterback), will develop a proposed community engagement initiative to engage a diverse range of residents, and build awareness of key City processes and functions.

Descriptions of all of Rosemount’s projects are available on the RCP website.

We’re excited to be working with the City of Rosemount, community partners, and students and faculty at the U of MN and look forward to a productive and rewarding partnership!

Mike Greco, AICP, is program manager of the Resilient Communities Project at the University of Minnesota