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Winona State Community Garden Brings Students, Professors Together

by Elizabeth Pulanco, featured photo by Taylor Nyman

With the spring season underway, flowers and outdoor projects are in bloom.

At Winona State University, the process of creating a community garden has taken root with the construction of a raised soil bed on April 15.

The Winona State SEED Garden is located on West 8th Street across from academic buildings on the Winona State Campus.

The SEED (sustainable, edible, educational, discovery) Garden has been in development for several years. Sophomore Jackson Ramsland has been the most recent student to take on the task.

Ramsland said his involvement with the garden began during spring semester of 2016 when friend of his, Allison Bettin asked if he wanted to take over the planning.

“Being very interested in gardening, I said ‘yes’ and took on the project,” Ramsland said.

Ramsland said his interest in gardening is connected to his time spent in the many gardens at his childhood home and summer jobs working at tree nurseries and organic farms.

“When I was growing up, my family had a pretty big plot of land so we had a lot of gardens,” Ramsland said. “We had a flower garden in the front yard and in the backyard, we had a couple of raised bed food gardens and we would always grow tomatoes and zucchinis.”

Ramsland said he had weekly meetings with faculty members, members of the university’s arboretum committee and the health and wellness department.

From the beginning, Ramsland said the creation of the garden has been a group effort.

“I have established some very important relationships with faculty members, student groups that are interested in working outside,” Ramsland said.

Jonathon Mauser, a chemistry professor and member of Winona State’s arboretum committee was also interested in the project and worked with Ramsland to find resources and funds to move the project forward.

Chemistry professor Jonathon Mauser fills a wheelbarrow with the gravel used to build the wall holding the raised soil bed together. The construction of the raised soil bed is expected to be finished by April 24.

Mauser said he had previous experiences working with community gardens and helped build the garden for his alma mater, the University of Portland in Oregon.

“I was an undergrad, so at this point I was on the student side of it and it is kind of fun to be on the other side of it now and kind of come full circle,” Mauser said.

According to Mauser, Winona State’s  SEED Garden is being funded by the university’s Green Fee.

“The Green Fee is a payment that every student pays starting this term It is a part of their tuition fees,” Mauser said.  “The Green Fee has gone to support this community garden and has also supported the spread of recycling bins on campus, which is going to be happening soon.”

The Green Fee also paid for reusable water bottles given to first-year students when they arrive on campus.

According to  Mauser, the mission for this project is an accumulation of different elements and involves different aspects of the university community.

Ramsland said  produce from the garden will be donated to the Warrior Cupboard, which is a food shelf that will be located in Winona State’s Integrated Wellness Center. Ramsland said this produce will be used to help combat food inequity and insecurity.

“About 56 percent of Winona State students qualify as being food insecure,” Ramsland said. “One of the biggest things with food insecurity is that most people aren’t getting adequate amounts of fruit and vegetables, so if students start using the garden, we hope that it will become very popular and that students will be getting the food that they need.”

Along with giving food to the Warrior Cupboard, Ramsland said hewould like to find a mobile way to distribute the produce from the garden around campus.

“I would love to set up a farm cart or something and drive around campus and give students produce. I think that it could be something that could become a very cool staple of Winona State,” Ramsland said.  “I can’t think of a lot of campuses that I have visited that have had a garden of this size for this purpose.”

At the moment, volunteers for the garden are working on the raised soil bed which will hold most of the produce. Ramsland said the plan is to have the soil bed finished by the week of April 24 and start putting plants into the ground by May 1.

The raised soil bed at the SEED Garden will contain different fruits and vegetables that will be sent to the Warrior Cupboard Food Shelf in the Integrated Wellness Complex on Winona State University’s campus.

Continue reading Winona State Community Garden Brings Students, Professors Together

Fire, Parks Department conduct spring cleanup

by Allison Mueller & Elizabeth Pulanco – photos by Taylor Nyman

When spring arrives in Winona, the melting snow reveals a layer of trash. The beginning of this season is when the City of Winona Fire Department and the Winona Parks and Recreation Department work together to remove garbage and tidy up Garvin Heights and other parks.

According to Chad Ubl, director of Community Services for the City of Winona’s Parks and Recreation Department, the park maintenance department does daily trash runs for the park system, which includes Garvin Heights. He said the department needs assistance with items that require heaving lifting. Due to its access to machinery and on-call employees, the park maintenance team works with the Winona Fire Department.

On Wednesday, April 5, at 6 p.m., the two departments met at Garvin Heights to participate in the annual cleanup.

Captain Brandon Leuhman instructs firefighters on how to set up a pulley system for the annual Garvin Heights lookout trash cleanup on Wednesday, April 5. The team used ropes and pulleys to suspend crew members over the side of the lookout to pick up trash and to haul up garbage with a tarp from further down the bluff.

Joel Corcoran, assistant fire chief, said they have collaborated with the park maintenance department for the Garvin Heights cleanup for 15 years. Corcoran said he coordinates with park maintenance and organizes the event.

Ubl and park maintenance crew member Jon Mullen said the crew of 10 to 20 on-call fire department participants and the few park maintenance employees gather and dispose of 500 to 600 pounds of garbage during each cleanup.

Due to the use of equipment and climbing required to retrieve the trash, the only people who participate in the cleanup are employees from the park maintenance department and fire department.

The cleanups take place during the spring, Corcoran said, after the snow melts and before the trees and bushes bloom. Due to weather delays and staff changes, last year’s cleanup was cancelled.

“We got to it little too late in the spring season and the trees and bushes were growing up to the point where we couldn’t do it anymore,” Corcoran said. “We postponed the event until this year. There is a significant amount of garbage that you can see, and if you go below, there is even more.”

A Winona firefighter fastens a safety harness for rappelling off the side of the bluff during the annual Garvin Heights cleanup on Wednesday, April 5. The Winona Fire Department also uses this cleanup day as a way to train their crew members with the equipment.

Both Ubl and Corcoran said the trash found is usually plastic bottles and food containers. Every once in a while, someone will dump large items such as a microwave, bike or shopping cart.

During the Wednesday cleanup, the fire department retrieved an old sofa that was thrown over the edge of the bluff as well as a broken TV.

Ubl said the litter is a sad illustration of what is happening at the Garvin Heights lookout.

“It is a place where many visitors come and overlook the cities and members of the community use the park as well. It is sad that we have individuals dump bikes and couches over the edge of a park,” Ubl said.

In order to bring up the sofa, the fire department set up the Arizona Vortex on the west end of Garvin Heights. This equipment is an artificial high directional system that serves as a tripod, which allowed the firefighters to rappel down the side of the bluff and attach pieces of the couch to be pulled up.

Winona firefighter Charlie Casperson rappels from the west side of Garvin Heights’ scenic lookout using the Arizona Vortex to retrieve a sofa that was thrown over the edge. The team of firefighters and park maintenance crewmembers picked up trash from the lookout on Wednesday, April 5.
Winona firefighter Charlie Casperson rappels from the west side of Garvin Heights’ scenic lookout using the Arizona Vortex to retrieve a sofa that was thrown over the edge. The team of firefighters and park maintenance crewmembers picked up trash from the lookout on Wednesday, April 5.

On the main lookout at Garvin Heights, a system of ropes and pulleys were set up to lower firefighters over the edge to place trash in buckets. A fire engine ladder was also used to bring up a tarp full of large items from further down the bluff. Workers below filled the tarp with trash, while others walked around the lookout picking up trash with garbage pickers.

According to Corcoran, the workers collected 320 pounds of garbage in this year’s haul. For the disposal of the trash, a garbage truck was parked near the lookout that could hold up to 2,000 pounds of waste, according to Mullen who was operating the truck. Ubl said park maintenance will recycle what they can, and other items are taken to the scrapyard.

The Winona Fire Department pulls up a shattered television and other trash from the side of the bluff using a tarp during the annual Garvin Heights cleanup on Wednesday, April 5.

In addition to helping clean the community, the fire department uses the cleanup event as a way to train employees with the rappelling equipment. By giving his staff a chance to use the equipment on the bluffs, Corcoran said he is helping his staff prepare for emergencies in the future.

“You can only do so much training within the fire station until it becomes unrealistic and redundant. Getting out and doing something like this gives us a chance to encounter the real-world problems that we have when we respond to an incident,” Corcoran said. “Unfortunately, things happen and people may fall or need assistance hiking and if the first time we’ve ever been up there is for an emergency like this, we are not as prepared. This is good, real world training for the future.”

Winona firefighters Brandon Luehman, Jeff Harris and Ryan Geiger rappel off Garvin Heights and collect trash people have thrown over the past two years during the annual trash cleanup on Wednesday, April 5.

Corcoran said the team was at Garvin Heights for nearly three hours cleaning up trash.

“We got most of what we intended on getting picked up that night. I believe it was successful,” Corcoran said. “It is a nice thing to do, not only for the community but for our training purposes. Keeping our parks looking nice and clean is important to all of us.”

Besides the annual Garvin Heights cleanup, the fire department and parks and recreation department work together on other projects.

When the parks and recreation department was looking to remove buckthorn, an invasive plant species, Ubl said they were able to receive a burn permit from the fire department.

“They gave us a burn permit and monitored the burn following the removal,” Ubl said.

The parks and recreation department and fire department have also collaborated to clean up the Sugar Loaf bluffs, according to Ubl.

“As a city we are trying our best to keep the parks clean and attractive for all the users, so we appreciate everybody’s assistance in helping us do that,” Ubl said. “Whether it is volunteers, or workers from the fire department.”

For Corcoran, the chance to clean up the community and provide his staff with hands-on training is meaningful and important.

“Being an employee of the city and a lifetime citizen of the community, I enjoy making it a little nicer,” Corcoran said. “I also enjoy having good, hands on training for the employees. It’s meaningful to people and they are more likely to learn something from it.”

Cold Animals Receive Warm Welcome

In the frigid winter, humans rely on jackets, hats, mittens and scarves to keep themselves protected from the harsh weather. Animals have an advantage with their furry bodies, but during below-freezing temperatures, this may not be enough.

In Winona, animals found in the cold are collected through Winona County Animal Control, or brought into the Winona Area Humane Society.

Kelly Sackmaster, cat director at WAHS, works with the 100-plus cats that are currently at the humane society. During winter months, Sackmaster said she has noticed a trend of cats being considered insignificant.

“What has surprised me the most in the winter months has been how many cats are brought to us with frostbite, or they have been found in the cold, or they were burned on a car engine because they were trying to warm themselves; it is all because people view them as disposable.” Sackmaster said.

When considering the percentage of cats and dogs in the shelter, the reclaim rate is taken into account. The reclaim rate is the number of animals that are taken back by their owners after staying in the shelter.

“The reclaim rate, how many animals get brought here and then are reclaimed by their owners, for dogs in Winona is 70 to 75 percent. For cats, it’s less than three percent.”

Jingles the cat waits for a forever home while staying at the Winona Area Humane Society.

According to Sackmaster, freezing weather confuses and shocks the animals, which causes them to get lost. In addition to the frostbite and car engine burns associated with winter weather, the stressful and freezing conditions can increase the risk for upper respiratory infections.

Due to the lack of veterinary professionals in their staff, the WAHS is not equipped to treat these injuries. When an animal arrives with frostbitten paws, Sackmaster said it is immediately sent to Pet Medical Center. Dr. Deb Finnegan, a veterinarian at Pet Medical in downtown Winona works closely with WAHS and has treated animals with weather related injuries.

Most of the injuries seen by Finnegan in winter are frostbite related. According to Finnegan, animals with frequent blood circulation through their feet and fur on their paws, like squirrels, have a better chance of surviving during the winter. Animals like cats and dogs with shorter and thinner fur have a high risk for frostbite.

This winter, Finnegan provided medical treatment for a kitten brought in by the WAHS who was experiencing severe tissue trauma from frostbitten paws.

“We treated a little kitten who was sloughing off her leathery pads because of the tissue trauma related to frost bite. I wrapped her feet and she will grow her pads back, but she will be more susceptible to tissue trauma so she will have to be an indoor cat.

Finnegan also said microcuts on paw pads created by ice melting salt increases the risk for frostbite and burns. According to Finnegan untreated frostbite can lead to gangrene.

The WAHS relies on Pet Medical to provide proper medical treatment for animals within the shelter. According to Sackmaster, the WAHS spends close to $5,000 a month on their medical care for sheltered animals. The medical treatment for animals is paid through donations to the WAHS.

“We are funded 99 percent by donations,” Sackmaster said. “That means every dollar that is donated is going toward the animals directly.”

When treating stray animals from the WAHS, Finnegan offers a 50 percent discount for the procedures.

“We are meeting each other half way,” Finnegan said.

The WAHS and Pet Medical take care of the animals found outside.  Sackmaster said she believes the community is also responsible for watching out for vulnerable animals. When protecting animals from freezing temperatures, Sackmaster said there are two important aspects to focus on: investigation and action.

“When you have that little voice in the back of your head that says, ‘I should check this out,’ or ‘I should pull over my car and see what is going on,’ you should try and listen to that voice,” Sackmaster said. “There are so many times where we have heard stories from people where a cat has been hanging around outside of their apartment building for three weeks and then they bring it in and it is missing half of an ear from frostbite.”

Maze, a cat staying in the Winona Area Humane Society’s Yellow Bay area for cats, is one of the many cats waiting for forever home in the humane society.

Sackmaster said fast action is important when helping animals, because she said many of the animals exposed to extreme winter weather do not make it to the WAHS in time.

If an individual cannot bring one of the stray animals inside, Finnegan suggested setting out food and fresh water, along with straw or blankets the animals can nest in.

“Animals are designed to nest. Providing a bed made of straw also helps protect them from the cold surfaces,” Finnegan said. “Surfaces like concrete and metal can increase the risk of frostbite.”

The winter is not only a dangerous time for lost or stray animals. Winter can be a difficult time for house pets as well.  Besides the weather, animals can be hurt by different products used to combat the cold temperatures and icy roads.

“Don’t leave antifreeze around. Pets are drawn to that because it is so sweet smelling, but it is also poisonous,” Sackmaster said. “After you walk your dog, wipe their paws off, because they will lick their paws and the salt that they use to melt the ice is also poisonous.”

Sackmaster suggested keeping cats indoors and clothing dogs with booties or sweaters if necessary.

“If it is too cold for you, it is probably too cold for your animals,” Sackmaster said.

According to Sackmaster and Finnegan, providing shelter, food and water are all sufficient ways to help animals. Finnegan said the best way to solve the problem is to decrease the number of stray animals.

“The best thing we can do for these animals is population control,” Finnegan. “Spay and neuter your pets. If there are stray animals outdoors, less of them will be at risk for these temperature related health issues.”

Video of Animals Staying in Shelter:

Winona State Goes To Washington

by Elizabeth Pulanco

After the 2016 presidential election, Washington D.C. returned to the spotlight in  January.  A group of 12 Winona State University students attended an academic seminar hosted by the Washington Center focused on elevating political discourse. Colleges and universities from all over the U.S. participated in the seminar, which was held from Jan. 8 to 21.

In addition to the seminar, students were able to meet alumni living the area, visit the various museums and landmarks and attend the presidential inauguration.

Photo Credit: Grace Johnson
While participating in the Washington Center’s Presidential Inauguration Seminar, Winona State University students got the chance to visit important landmarks and buildings, including the United State Supreme Court Building.
(back, left to right) Benjamin Reimler and Steven Scheevel
(bottom left to right) Christina Melecio, Jack Smyth, Nicole Zimmerman, Christopher Veeder, Grace Johnson, Bobbi Wrona and Max Gonzalez.

The inauguration took place near the end of their time in Washington. According to Winona State senior Grace Johnson and junior Christina Melecio, it was a memorable experience.

Johnson had a mixed response to the inauguration. She said she wanted to attend the Women’s March on following day, but was unable to because her flight was leaving early. She discussed how she wore her pink hat at the inauguration to show support for the movement.

“Pink was the main color for standing up for equality that weekend,” Johnson said. “I got called out and yelled at by other Trump supporters that were there. They yelled at the police to try and get me to leave and harassed me until my friend just told me to take off the hat, because it was not worth my security.”

Even though Johnson experienced conflicts at the inauguration, she said  was still able to observe the event and even made a friend.

Johnson mentioned a woman from Texas who was at the inauguration with her husband and grandchildren. According to Johnson, this woman was the only individual who was willing to have a positive conversation with her.

Johnson said. “Any time someone yelled at us or challenged us, she would be like ‘Stop messing with my liberal friends.’ She gave us big hugs at the end when everyone was leaving.”

Similar to Johnson’s experience, Melecio said she was conflicted with what she heard during the inauguration.

“I was surrounded by people who used horrible rhetoric,” Melecio said. “They were saying some very nasty things about Mexicans, which I am, so that was difficult to digest.”

Despite the behavior of some attendees, Melecio said she was still lucky to view a peaceful transition of power.

“Regardless of whether I liked the candidate or not, in the United States we get to vote for someone, and they get picked. And we don’t have a war in response,” Melecio said.

The situation the students faced with the individuals who had opinions that conflicted with their own was the main focus of the Washington Center’s seminar.

Johnson said she believes the information she learned was applicable to her studies as a political science major.

“In our political science program, conversations are pretty much one-sided. There is not a lot of discourse in our conversations,” Johnson said. “Whether in the political science program, or just having discussions about policy, having an idea of what the other side thinks and being willing to play devil’s advocate, will help us when we get into the field.”

Melecio said the seminar caused her to evaluate different perspectives.

“We had assignments every single day where we had to write a single page, single spaced essay about a different perspective that we learned about,” Melecio said.

Winona State junior Adam Thompson, a social studies education major, is planning on using the information he learned while he is teaching, and said finds it beneficial for discussions on campus.

“The ability to host discussions and teach people about your opinions and feelings will be extremely valuable to me as a social studies teacher while also teaching my students how to have these discussions,” Thompson said.

 Kara Lindaman, a political science professor who organized the trip, said she believes Winona State students could benefit greatly from the seminar.

“I think why we get into this business is for two core commitments to higher education: educating for personal and social responsibility, and taking note of the perspectives of others,” Lindaman said. “It’s really hard to emulate that in a classroom full of similar majors, minds and backgrounds.”

Sociology professor Jennifer Chernega was a chaperone for the trip and said how the trip to Washington was a useful out -of – classroom experience.

“These types of experiences help students connect their classroom work to the world outside and see that the folks that they read about and see on TV are real people,” Chernega said.

Thompson did not attend the inauguration, but did view the several museums in Washington like the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

 “As an African American, seeing that history is extremely important. You immediately think of political discourse when you see things on the civil rights movement and the fight for abolition,” Thompson said. “At the Holocaust Museum, there were two survivors from Auschwitz and Dachau that we got the opportunity to speak to, which was an experience that will stick with me for a while.”

Along with the museums, walked through the Senate Office Buildings. While in these buildings, they met their local representatives and Minnesota State Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken.

The students went to the Brazilian Embassy and discussed climate change and the status of Brazil in a new presidential administration with research ambassador Frank Neto.

Besides meeting different representatives and political figures, some of the students had the chance to make friends. According to the Washington Center, 60 universities and 320 students participated in the seminar.

“Meeting new people was one of my favorite parts of the trip,” Melecio said. “I have new friends from Connecticut, Florida, Arkansas and New York.”

Students said they felt that traveling to Washington not only gave them a different perspective on their nation’s capitol, but it also gave them a chance to think about their future.

“I think we kind of get stuck in this hopeless feeling of being in college forever, and going to D.C. showed us that there is more we can do,” Johnson said. “We had the opportunity to talk with people from different kinds of fields of work in D.C. The opportunities we got there are not usually found here in Winona.”

Many of the students who traveled to Washington are a part of the political science program or are members of Winona State’s Student Senate, and taking this trip reignited their passion for public service, especially for Melecio

“We went to learn, and I think we learned a lot about elevating political discourse, but we also learned a lot about ourselves,” Melecio said.” I think people started seeing different career paths or futures for themselves while being there. It was a once and a lifetime kind of opportunity.”