A Board decision was made on June 29th to keep the Sally Manzara Interpretive Nature Center closed for public visits until further notice. Watch this site for the latest news. But many things are underway:

Bear Alert: Our neighbor Jim Gibbons (photo credit) who lives just to the east of the Park had a visitor, and forwarded us this picture asking us to alert hikers to practice good social distancing if they encounter this one.

Tipi set up for NAPAC Celebration June 22nd, and 3 Sisters Garden

The Stillwater Schools Native American Parent Advisory Committee has set up their tipi again– come and see it.

Last week the 3 Sisters Garden was blessed by Georgia, planted by Mason, and fenced by Tony. The corn was already about six inches high June 30th!

Our other outdoor attractions are blooming – the Rain Garden, Prairie Plant Specimen Planters, Monarch Waystation, and flowerpots are all doing well. The deer appreciate our efforts too!

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

News Release: Help Wanted!

The Friends of Lake Elmo’s Sunfish Lake Park have received a Grant called “Restoration of Sunfish Lake Park” from the Outdoor Heritage Fund.

please click on the links below to learn more about this Fund



The State of Minnesota Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council Conservation Partners Legacy Grant Program is administered by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.   The focus of this effort is to remove buckthorn and restore the native habitat. It covers a designated 40 acres of the woodland area of the park – shown in BLUE in the current sketch below – and runs through September 2023 .  The State will reimburse up to $139,000  in costs, the City of Lake Elmo has voted a $10,000 contribution, and the Friends will contribute at least 300 volunteer hours valued at $20/hour for a total program cost of $154,000. We have begun working the administrative side. We are requesting bids from suitable Contractors for the heavy work.  Volunteer opportunities are described, and you are certainly invited.  

An outline of the plan is:

A. Starting ASAP, mark the mature trees we want to save in the designated area by tying a ribbon around each one. If you can identify oak and maple trees, you can help. This is a great opportunity to get some fresh air, maintain social distance as an individual or family group, and help our native plants overcome the buckthorn invasion. If you are interested please contact George Johnson at 651-757-5610, or email info@sminc-lake-elmo.org.  Master Naturalists and Master Gardeners are invited to help, and log their service hours.

B. Before mid-October, have volunteers cut/treat the small buckthorn that is growing within two feet of each identified mature tree so those trees won’t be damaged by the difficult-to-maneuver forest mulching machinery 

C. This Summer, have the Contractor do ground-level foliar spraying in the areas (about 5 acres) that have been cleared of big buckthorn in the past two years by the efforts of our volunteers, then seed those areas with fast-growing native grasses that will begin to build up a fuel reserve for eventual prescribed burns

D. In the Fall, have the Contractor do the major forest mulching, and any suitable seeding of native grasses.

E. Plan next Summer’s broad-leaf herbicide attack on any buckthorn that germinates.

G. When the time is right and after the grasses can be burned, plant a mix of the proper native understory flora to restore habitat suitable to the forest type we are restoring, to encourage the native animal and insect population to move back in. 

Announcing the First Sunfish Lake Park Nature Calendar Photo Submission –

sponsored by the Sally Manzara Interpretive Nature Center!

Here is the first entry (click Picture Gallery tab for better image):

Hiking in the time of COVID-19 lo res
“Hiking in the Time of COVID-19” Sue Steinwall, all rights reserved

You are invited to submit your favorite pictures taken in Sunfish Lake Park to info@sminc-lake-elmo.org to enter the contest. Please limit image submissions to two per entrant. The plan is to have a group of expert photographers choose the 12 they like, and create a calendar. Those who submit the selected photos would get a free calendar.  Image providers give the nature center permission to use their images to benefit our non-profit, such as for publicity, or creating a calendar, puzzle, etc for fundraising purposes.

Our annual Sunfish Lake Park Family Nature Day is postponed until at least July 18th, and may have to be pushed further back. More information ASAP.

The City of Lake Elmo has posted guidance about trail usage based on the Executive Orders, as shown in this sign, please maintain social distance and keep pets on a leash:

trail social distance

The Park entry road is open and the Park trails are nice right now, came and visit before the mosquitoes take over!  But check for ticks ……

Please email us at info@sminc-lake-elmo.org if you have a question about the nature center. The building phone is 651-408-2838 but generally no one is there to answer.

The White-Breasted Nuthatch of late winter has been replaced by “Happy”, the Eastern Bluebird of Early Spring at the Big Birdhouse.


(see calendar page and event page for details)

Next Buckthorn Removal Day – second Saturday of the month, July 11th from 9:30 AM to Noon

Come and help remove this invasive plant from the Park. We have the loppers, gloves, and herbicide applicators, or you may bring your own. Please contact George at 651-757-5610 if you have questions.

Spring for Nature Annual Fundraiser – has been modified to a Virtual Fundraising Dinner



Because of the COVID-19 Minnesota guidelines we cannot ask 200 people to come to a wonderful dinner at the lake Elmo Inn Event Center and hear a talk by Minnesota author William Kent Krueger. So our Fundraising Committee has developed a plan for a “socially distanced” event. For a $100 donation, you will have your choice of a $40 gift certificate for the Lake Elm Inn (which is open by reservation for parties up to four and family groups up to eight) or you may choose to support the nature center with the whole $100 as a donation. Please visit our website page https://sminc-lake-elmo.org/fundraising-dinner/ to donate electronically, or mail a check to PO Box 241, Lake Elmo, MN 55052, which saves the PayPal or credit card fee.

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.

BrochureFall2019 v2finL

Times of events and programs are shown on the Calendar (click on tab above).  For a more complete description of each event, and sign-up instructions, go to the “Event and Program Descriptions” tab.

We have officially “Adopted” Sunfish Lake Park in the Lake Elmo Adopt-a-Park Program. 


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.

The Friends have chosen the Blandings Turtle Emydoidea blandingii as our mascot. Here is a how we see Emy as a quirky creature ready to tell you about the activities in our Park

Emy WP with Emy in right font