Washington County is among 22 in the state that is under new burning restrictions imposed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) because of extremely dry conditions. Recreational and brush fires now have been banned in 43 of the state's 87 counties.

According to the DNR, the severe drought and windy weather has brought wildfire conditions to the point that fires start easily from sparks or windblown embers and spread extremely fast.

Under the rules, open fires are prohibited except for campfires or recreational fires in a designated receptacle designed for such use and associated with a residence, staffed campgrounds such as state parks, or resorts. No burning permits will be issued to the general public and use of fireworks will not be allowed outside of municipalities.

Sheriff's Office gets 130 pounds of drugs

More than 130 pounds of prescription drugs and controlled substances were turned in during the most recent Washington County Sheriff's Office "Take-Back" campaign on Sept. 29.

Conducted in partnership with Washington County Public Health and Environment and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), potentially dangerous expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs were gathered at no cost and anonymously, with no questions asked.

Health Department honors ex-employee

Ann DeLa Vergne, formerly an employee of Washington County Public Health and Environment Department, was honored by the Minnesota Department of Health for her commitment to healthy food for the community.

DeLa Vergne's work has supported a number of healthy foods initiatives: The Fresh Green Bucks program, which currently runs in three Washington County grocery stores, allows shoppers to purchase coupons that translate to fresh fruit and vegetables for local food shelves; the volunteer-run Our Community Kitchen serves healthy breakfasts two days per week, regardless of ability to pay, and uses locally grown and produced foods.

DeLa Vergne also helped support the establishment of six community gardens in and around Washington and Ramsey counties, two of which are situated in mobile home parks.


Major Halloween fundraiser planned

The Woodbury Community Foundation will have a Halloween-themed fundraiser at 6 p.m. on Oct. 26 at the Prom Center in Oakdale.

The "2012 Soiree Spooktakular" will feature an auction, costume contest, haunted house, dancing and snacks at the event for anyone 21 and older. Costumes are encouraged, organizers said.

Tickets are available at www.WoodburyFoundation.org. Proceeds will go for grants and program funding.

Volunteers sought to clear buckthorn

Volunteers will gather Saturday at Edgewater Park, 3100 Edgewater Drive, to remove buckthorn on the south end of Colby Lake. The event will begin at 8:30 a.m. and last until 12:30 p.m.

Buckthorn is an invasive species that sprouts leaves early and retains them late into the fall, creating a dense wall of vegetation. Native plants cannot compete and eventually disappear.

Woodbury is joining with Great River Greening and Warner's Outdoor Solutions for the annual Buckthorn Busting event. Anyone interested in volunteering can register at www.greatrivergreening.org/events_calendar.asp.

Newest Aldi opens in former Borders store

Aldi, the German discount supermarket chain, has opened its newest Minnesota store in space formerly occupied by Borders bookstore in Woodbury at 8472 Tamarack Bay, near the corner of Radio Drive and Tamarack Road.

Aldi, which also has outlets in Oak Park Heights, Mahtomedi, Inver Grove Heights and on St. Paul's East Side, carries about 500 select brand products, does not supply grocery bags and accepts cash or debit cards only.

ALDI has about 1,200 U.S. stores in 32 states, and the Woodbury store is one of more than 80 that Aldi plans to open this year.


Valley Outreach hires new food shelf director

Elizabeth Stone was recently named food shelf director at Valley Outreach.

She brings more than eight years experience working in basic needs social services. She is fluent in Spanish and has worked with diverse populations.

Demand for the food shelf has increased by 60 percent over the past four years, with an average of 400 families served monthly. Non-perishable food donations can be dropped off at Valley Outreach, located at 1911 Curve Crest Blvd. W. in Stillwater, on between 10 a.m. and noon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and between 5 and 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Donations also can be made outside of regular business hours by calling Christy Bevacqua at 651-430-2739.

For more information, go to www.valleyoutreachmn.org.

Home design business opens in Stillwater

Interior Impressions has opened in Stillwater.

The business is a design showroom, owned by Amy Leferink, within Maison Galleria on Main Street. Services and products include home staging and redesign, design and color consulting, custom window treatments, custom bedding and cushions, accessories and home furnishing, faux finishing and specialty wall finishes, professional organizing and space planning.


Donated money used for interpretive signs

The St. Croix River Fund has received a gift of $7,800 from the Connor family in Webster, Wis.

Descendants of Cecilia Connor, whose story is told in "Cecilia: The Trials of an Amazing Ojibwe Woman, 1832-1892," agreed the best way to honor the life and legacy of Russell Connor, a lifelong resident of Webster and lover of the St. Croix River, was to make a gift that allowed for greater interpretation of the riverway. He died in 2010 at age 87.

"It's hard to think of anyone who loved the river more," said his widow, Lyla.

Using stories and photos that go back three generations, the National Park Service will collaborate with the St. Croix River Association to create signs for five areas along the St. Croix, bringing decades of river history and Ojibwe culture to visitors. A video documentary also will be produced. 


Volunteers needed to haul away brush

Volunteers are needed to work with Friends of the Mississippi River ecologist Karen Schik to begin the restoration of "Tunnel Valley" in Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park by hauling cut brush. The event will be from 9 a.m. to noon on Oct. 27.

Crews already will have cut the brush. Volunteers hauling it out will help open the canopy, making way for more native plants to return. Historically, the slopes were covered by oak woodland and savanna. They've since grown in with trees and invasive non-native shrubs.

Known as a "Tunnel Valley," the ravine was carved by a sub-glacial drainage way that carried large volumes of water, eroding the valley.

Supplies, including lunch, will be provided. To register, go to www.startribune.com/a1785.