Welcome to March – and hopefully the first signs of Spring! The buds are fattening and the birds which nest in our neighborhood will soon be here, singing for the best territories and mates.

We are looking forward to being able to serve our Community with indoor events again, once the threat of COVID is gone. For now, please check our “Activities to Download” page and print out something that interests you. More Detail Below. There are Word Find Puzzles, Seasonal Nature Scavenger Hunts, Games, Nature Guide Information, Coloring Activities, Picture Sudoku, and Trail Maps. The newest feature is “Nature Journal Pages” to download, print, and use to record your impressions. Or request one of our calendars shown below.

Progress in Buckthorn Elimination

Progress is being made on the effort to remove invasive buckthorn from Sunfish Lake Park. Stantec has completed the process of Forestry Mulching in the southwest part of the Park – click on our Buckthorn tab to see on the map.

The updated map just below shows where Stantec has done forestry mulching (brown and pale yellow) where the buckthorn has been mowed down and mulched. If you take a walk in this part of the Park, your will notice that the air is permeated with the unforgettable and invigorating aroma of freshly ground buckthorn. This experience is to be savored by all those who have fought the good fight to remove this invasive plant. The areas marked in Purple will require some hand work, we are looking for volunteers to help on Saturday April 10th, 9:30 AM. Please contact George for questions/details 651-757-5610. The yellow rings show where we will be removing oriental bittersweet berries before they can sprout.

You can also check out this home video –

Thanks to all the volunteers who have joined us on previous second-Saturdays at 9:30 AM- we have really made a dent! We will be at it again on when weather permits. Buckthorn gets a head start by budding earlier than other plants. For really up-to-date information call George at 651-757-5610.

Three volunteers, Paul, Bob, and Craig, who had set up a beekeeping project at Warner Nature Center, have found a new home at SMINC. After getting the necessary approvals, they got right to work building the Apiary – check out the activity on YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmWuwBJQjDQ

Their plan includes an indoor observation hive where visitors can watch the bees make wax, honey, and more bees!

Activities to Download

We are offering free downloads of nature-based activities – click on “Activities to Download” in the tabs above. These activities include illustrated nature Scavenger Hunt sheets, Nature Journal pages, Word Find Puzzles at different levels of difficulty, other Games, and Trail Guide information.

Or Think Spring and plan for a DO IT YOURSELF POLLINATOR GARDEN– attract and nourish pollinators. Click here to find links to various websites that provide help in setting up a pollinator garden on your own property – small or large!

More information about native plant gardening is found on the DIY links tab above.

Or Start a Nature Observation diary. This activity is called “Phenology” Open this link to view an example phenology journal by Chad Kaddatz. https://simplebooklet.com/acentralminnesotanaturejournal?fbclid=IwAR2rjBFZUHP98q4wwQDeB_XmMimB5weKtjT7o2XG4H1Bz-QgCX5oLMf9HqE#page=0

We now have a flagpole where you may fly the United States flag in honor of a veteran or first responder. Installation was arranged by Matthew Bohlig as an Eagle Scout project. Please click on “Flagpole Reservations” tab for information on how to reserve this location.

Visits by Appointment are Available

We have established a protocol for guided tours by appointment during the COVID pandemic, requiring masks, hand sanitizing, and signing a waiver. Please contact us by email to info@sminc-lake-elmo.org if you, or your small group would like to arrange a tour. A Board decision was made on June 29th to keep the Sally Manzara Interpretive Nature Center closed for public visits until further notice. These tours are not really suitable for tots because we have had to cover all the kid-attracting items (no way to sanitize them easily). Please click on “Hours and Location” tab for specifics.

Watch this site for the latest news.

Our outdoor attractions have now gone to seed. – Visit the Rain Garden, Prairie Plant Specimen Planters, and Monarch Waystation to see the various ways plants have evolved to spread their seeds far and wide to ensure survival.

We have made great progress in upgrading our interior exhibits, and can’t wait to re-open so you can see and experience them.


We have done the Fall 2020 nesting survey of the birdhouse trail, and found much more nesting activity this year. The report will be available in December. To see the illustrated report of the 2019 Birdhouse Nesting Survey, click on this link:  SMINC Birdhouse survey 11-29-19 w pics    For further information on the birdhouse project, click on the Exhibits, Trail Guides and Science Projects tab above.

For volunteer opportunities, go to the Volunteer or Intern page.

The Friends of Lake Elmo’s Sunfish Lake Park rely on donations to operate the Sally Manzara Interpretive Nature Center as a community resource within our Mission.  Please click on the “How to Donate” page and help us if you can.