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7/13/2014 5:59 P.M. ET

Twins break ground on St. Paul nature sanctuary

Trout Brook rail yard getting revamped as part of All-Star charity program

MINNEAPOLIS -- Thanks to a donation from the Twins, one St. Paul community is getting a new nature sanctuary and a gateway to the Mississippi River.

The team dedicated Trout Brook Nature Sanctuary in a Sunday afternoon ceremony that featured owner Jim Pohlad, team president Dave St. Peter, MLB executive vice president of business Tim Brosnan and former World Series champion Randy Bush.

Mike Hahm, St. Paul's director of parks and recreation, was on hand to break down what the All-Star gift means to the community.

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"This project is about connecting the community to green space, and improving quality of life," he said. "It creates paths down from the community, allowing local residents to access downtown, the Mississippi River and other communities.

"There are also environmental benefits. This project is taking storm water from area streets, filtering it through a series of ponds, reestablishing a stream that long ago was buried and abandoned and improving our water."

The area in question is a former rail yard that rests on the edge of a central St. Paul community just a couple of minutes from downtown.

A volunteer initiative called Great River Greening will supply the manpower for the project over the next couple of years. Executive director Deborah Karasov said that the GRG program has engaged more than 32,000 volunteers since its creation in 1995.

"We're very special, because we're one of Major League Baseball's only environmental grants," Karasov said. "Their money here will go to restore this important park."

Pohlad said he had never heard of the area until a few weeks ago, but he was very impressed with what he saw on Sunday, and he's happy to contribute to the area as part of the Twins' $8 million All-Star legacy giving program

"This is unique, relative to the other [grants] I've done," Pohlad said. "It involves nature, and a park, and a building for everybody to use it -- it's not just for baseball, it's for everybody."

To commemorate the new initiative, the VIPs in attendance broke ground with special baseball-themed shovels to plant the program's first tree.

A whole host of white oak trees -- a popular species in southeastern Minnesota -- will take up the space that the old railroad tracks left behind. In fact, the tracks nearest to the community have already been overrun with tall grass and bushes.

"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago," Karasov said. "But the second-best time is now."

Alex M. Smith is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @asmiff. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.