Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

What makes Moose Lake's gardens grow?


Lois E. Johnson

Clarissa Ellis-Prudhomme is often seen tending the gardens along Moose Lake's Arrowhead Lane.

The beautiful flower gardens and trees along Arrowhead Lane in Moose Lake do not go unnoticed by local residents and visitors. The gardens and grounds are maintained by a crew from the Public Works Department, headed by gardener Clarissa Ellis-Prudhomme.

Leon Hedberg mows the grass in the city.

"People stop and compliment us on the gardens many times a week," Ellis-Prudhomme said. "They are important to them. They tell us that the gardens are so beautiful."

Ellis-Prudhomme and her garden partner, Linda Eckert, are often seen near their little red truck with the white water tank parked by one of the gardens, bent over or sitting trimming the flowers.

"I have big gardens at home - both flower and vegetable gardens," said Ellis-Prudhomme in a recent interview. "We can and freeze a lot of vegetables.

"When our youngest daughter went off to college, we didn't have to go to any more volleyball and basketball games. I took the Master Gardener course through the University of Minnesota Extension and have been a Master Gardener for nine years."

Ellis-Prudhomme is married to Craig Prudhomme of Agate Financial Services. Although both are employed in Moose Lake, the couple still resides near Sandstone.

Ellis-Prudhomme was hired by the city in June 2014. Bonnie Mackin was the city's first gardener after the streetscape project became a reality, and she held that position for several years.

When Mackin left in June 2014, Ellis-Prudhomme saw the ad for the gardener position. It was the perfect fit for the change she wanted to make in her life.

"I have been a naturalist at the Audubon Center in Sandstone for 33 years," she explained. "I worked part-time when the kids were young but have been full-time for a number of years. I have been working with school groups that come to the center but I felt it was time to cut back to part-time.

"When I saw the ad in the paper, I applied and got the job."

Ellis-Prudhomme said she hasn't been working at the Audubon Center during the summer but will work several days a week during the school year.

Now that this is the second season Ellis-Prudhomme has maintained the gardens, she is making plans for the landscape in the future.

"I want to do something similar north of the stoplights and elsewhere once the construction is complete," she said. "There is less space available north of the stoplights for gardens or trees but it would certainly be nice to have a few."

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is planning on completely reconstructing Arrowhead Lane, from the north freeway exit to the south freeway exit and up Folz Boulevard in the next year or two, including widening the sidewalks.

"I want to know what is planned," she said. "It will affect the design of the gardens."

Ellis-Prudhomme wants to meet with the planners to coordinate garden spaces along Arrowhead Lane.

Other plans include a rain garden on one of the lots where a home was removed as a result of damage from the 2012 flood, and planting a butterfly garden near the new pavilion by Riverside Arena.

"I have plant lists and designs for the rain garden and the butterfly garden," she said. "I have met with Kelly Smith from the Carlton County Soil and Water Conservation District and with a representative from Pine County. Kelly came up with simple plans. I'm also open to ideas."

It's not only flowers that Ellis-Prudhomme maintains, it is also the trees along Arrowhead Lane.

"The city had a Community Bonding Grant that provided funds for the trees," she said. "Some had to be replaced, and Pat (Oman, city administrator) got an extension on the grant so we could replace the trees that weren't doing well last fall."

Ellis-Prudhomme spoke to the city council on August 12 about Moose Lake becoming a Tree City USA.

"It's a program sponsored primarily by the Arbor Day Foundation, and it encourages cities, small or large, to be intentional when taking care of the trees that they have. Trees have many benefits, including providing shade."

There are four criteria to become a Tree City: set up a committee or a board made up of volunteers and a representative of the council; a tree maintenance, care, and pest control ordinance, which the city already has; a financial commitment by the city of $2 per citizen; and the city have an Arbor Day celebration event.

"If the council says yes, I can fill out an application," said Ellis-Prudhomme. "I can do this. As the city starts to draw up the budget for next year, they can include funding for this project.

"The elements or standards are already in place. We just need to document the steps that we take as it relates to the trees. That's where my naturalist background and education comes in."

Ellis-Prudhomme is pleased to see people care about the landscape.

"It is wonderful that Moose Lake is such an attractive city," she said. "That is important to both the citizens and the city council. For a city the size of Moose Lake, it is really impressive and indicative of the asset in the town and the values of the people. It's all very positive."

Ellis-Prudhomme invites people to submit their ideas to the city administrator in writing or by calling city hall at (218) 485-4010.


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