Survey wants to know: How much do you know about the Vermillion River?
The Vermillion River is just a fact of life when you live in Farmington. It shimmies through the midsection of the county. It spills over the shores in the spring and after heavy rainfalls. It's even got a pretty good reputation as a trout stream.
But the Vermillion River and its well-being isn't something that should be taken for granted. It's a valuable resource, and the University of Minnesota is looking for a little help to keep it that way.
In May, the U of M's Department of Forest Resources sent out about 1,000 surveys to landowners in the Vermillion River Watershed. The hope, assistant professor Mae Davenport said, is to find out just how much landowners know -- or care -- about the water resources in their community.
The Vermillion River Watershed stretches from New Market on the west to Sunfish Lake to the north, and Red Wing to the east. It includes the river itself, as well as a number of tributaries and holding ponds.
It's what happens on the banks of those bodies of water that has Davenport interested. She and her department developed the surveys so they could find out if landowners understand the impact they can have on the Vermillion River.
The surveys cover a range of topics, from how recipients feel about their community to how much they know about conservation practices. Questions ask residents what they know about watershed management in Minnesota.
Davenport said the survey was crafted to get at the different ideas relating to conservation and streamside buffer maintenance. A major component is just finding out whether the people living along the river and its tributaries understand the impact they can have on the Vermillion.
"Any drop of rain or snow, when it melts, flows into that one Vermillion River main stream. Landowners and property owners throughout the watershed can have a impact - really anybody in that watershed - based on how they use that land, how they protect that land," she said.
Putting an emphasis on the understanding and use of buffers is no accident. Buffers help protect the shoreline and the aquatic habitat in the river, Davenport said.
The U of M also wants to know if residents feel like they have any unnecessary restraints imposed because they live in a watershed, or if those residents have any other problems with the river.
"One of the main goals is to better understand the perspective of landowners who live near the streams," Davenport said. "It really gives local people a voice."
In distributing the surveys, the U of M targeted landowners whose property is within 300 feet of the river, a stream or a holding pond. Due to its size, the Vermillion River Watershed was broken down into several sub-districts. An equal number of surveys were sent to each sub-district.
"We tried to reach the full stretch of the watershed's hydrologic boundaries, so each could be represented geographically," Davenport said.
Davenport will get the results back later this summer. Once they're all returned, the U of M will analyze the responses and develop a report to share with local officials at the township, city, county and state levels. Davenport expects to have the reports finished in the fall.
Because the surveys were spread over a good portion of Dakota County, Davenport knows not everyone has seen one of the questionnaires. If residents are interested, they can call her at 612-624-2721 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Davenport doesn't expect to send out any extra surveys, but she hopes those who received them fill them out and return them to the University of Minnesota.
"Water is a public resource, a public good. What people do on the land affects that public good," she said. "It sort of takes everybody in the watershed to do the right thing."