KURT AND RENEE KNUTSON
For the first time in Soak it Up! Award history, we are honoring both a commercial AND a residential property. Our two 2020 award recipients resolved persistent water issues on their land, minimized runoff to keep polluted water out of rivers and lakes around us, and went above and beyond to add natural beauty and create new habitat for pollinators.
Kurt & Renee Knutson are truly inspiring. After years watching a river of runoff flow through their yard and listening to neighbors complain about water in basements, Kurt and Renee took action. In 2017, they purchased a flat, barren piece of land in the middle of their neighborhood and began to turn it into a sustainable oasis that absorbs runoff naturally.
“We were wowed by the change in the property and the final results,” said Renee. “It was exciting to see the field morph from a flat, uncared for space to a beautiful, thoughtful “green” space with dimension.”
What started as a project to control runoff and create an area where the dogs can run, became a naturalized property with three rain gardens, multiple berms and swales, hundreds of native plants, natural rock features and dry creek beds.
The stream of stormwater runoff that once flowed through the Knutson’s yard is gone. Water in neighboring basements is no longer an issue. They also upped their commitment and added solar panels to the property to further reduce their environmental footprint.
“With all of the environmental issues we are facing as a world, we believe it’s important for each of us to step up and do what we can. We hope that all property and business owners will recognize the benefits of these efforts. Big and small, they all make a difference. We live in a unique area of rivers and bluffs and it needs to be protected and cared for. We are truly in this together!”
WHY DID YOU UNDERTAKE THIS PROJECT AND WHAT WERE YOU TRYING TO CREATE?
We recognized the need to have some type of stormwater runoff prevention given the large rain events of the last few years. During these events our back yard flooded and water would actually flow like a river through the yard. We knew the basic problems causing our flooding, but wanted to work with professionals to ensure we were getting the maximum benefits for the effort. We had ideas for the property before we met with our landscaper, but they helped refine and add to those ideas. We just wanted a pretty yet functional space to play and train our dogs, something that was friendly to us, the dogs, our neighbors and the habitat around us.
WHAT WORK WAS DONE ON THE PROPERTY?
Once drainage flow was determined to be the most efficient and effective solution, our landscaper proceeded to lay out the basic design of the space. We all agreed that rain gardens were a key element to the project. Next, we looked at using swales to direct water to the rain gardens and wanted to incorporate large stones and berms for some dimension and interest. The soil to build the berms was taken from three rain gardens and dry creek beds. We also added two small bridges over the creek beds and LOTS of wonderful, native plants. We love to enjoy landscaping year round, so we also included a nice variety of evergreens for a pop of interest in the winter months.
WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION AFTER LANDSCAPING WAS INSTALLED? LOOKING BACK, WOULD YOU HAVE DONE ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY?
We were wowed by the change in the property and the final results. It was exciting to see the field morph from a flat, uncared for space to a beautiful, thoughtful green space with dimension. The added bonus if that…the water issues we used to experience are no longer occurring. On of our favorite things to do is to sit at the top of the largest berm and just enjoy the breeze while gazing at the property. We love how beautiful and functional the dry creek beds are. We also loved watching the process of the project and seeing dimension added to the flatness that was. The butterflies and birds that have been enjoying the new space are also great. Overall, we are looking forward to having years to enjoy watching it mature and grow.
The only thing we probably should have done differently was not to have thrown our landscaper a curveball as we finalized plans! At the last minute we decided to install solar panels as well. Luckily, they ran with the idea and were able to accommodate the changes in a heartbeat.
THIS PROJECT COULD HAVE BEEN DONE ON A SMALLER SCALE. WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO “GO BIG OR GO HOME?”
With all of the environmental issues we are facing as a world, we believe it’s important for each of us to step up and do what we can. We have been fortunate enough to incorporate environmentally friendly projects over the years. We added geothermal to our home about 5 years ago, and when this opportunity came up to deal with rain water, the addition of solar was a natural next step to going full circle.
HOW DID YOU FEEL WHEN YOU LEARNED YOU WERE NOMINATED FOR THE SOAK IT UP! PROJECT AWARD?
Honored and humbled.
DO YOU HOPE OTHER HOMEOWNERS IN OUR COMMUNITY WILL TAKE NOTE AND REDUCE RUNOFF?
Certainly! We hope all property and business owners will recognize the benefits of these efforts. Big and small, they all make a difference. We hope that all responsible property owners will do their part to help protect our environment. We live in a unique area of rivers and bluffs. It needs to be protected and cared for, and we are truly in this together!
La Crosse Area Waters’ annual Soak it Up! Award honors citizens who have completed a landscaping project that reduces stormwater runoff. Projects improve water management in our communities, the condition of local waterways, and livability of neighborhoods. Nominees lead by example, inspiring other community members to take on projects. Nominate a project for the next SOAK IT UP! award now!