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Ralph Engelstad Raingarden 

Raingarden Dedication 2015

On August 20, 2015, the Ralph Engelstad Arena Raingarden was dedicated to Al Gustafson, devoted conservationist and hockey enthusiast.  Al worked for the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) for 42 years and had extensive knowledge of plant materials.  Memorial signs were revealed with information on the raingarden and plants.

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Raingarden Clean Up 2021

In June of 2021, Patrice Delany, Conservation Corps of MN and Iowa Team Member and Pennington SWCD Summer Intern, coordinated a project to clean up the rain gardens outside the Ralph Engelstad Arena. 


Three large gardens were planted in 2015 as a memorial to Al Gustafson, a local conservationist and hockey enthusiast.  The goal of the plantings was to collect rainwater runoff from the arena’s rooftop and prevent the street from flooding.  However, due to minimal maintenance over the years, the plantings had become completely overgrown and inundated with weeds.  Patrice met with the Ralph Engelstad Arena and the City of Thief River Falls to coordinate a plan for weed removal, future plantings, and maintenance.


Nine volunteers from Textron, Inc., and multiple employees of TRF’s Public Works Department band together to remove invasive weeds while conserving as many of the original plants as possible.  To the group’s amazement, some native wildflowers (not originally planted in the gardens but known to be beneficial to pollinators and help the rain gardens to function properly) were found during the cleaning process.

New Signs Installed

Two new signs were installed in the spring of 2022 near the entrance to the Ralph Engelstad Arena.  One of the signs dedicates the gardens to Al Gustafson and relays a quick synopsis about how the rain gardens are designed to work.  The other sign describes some of the different types of vegetation planted throughout the gardens

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