The Sally Manzara Interpretive Nature Center is open for visitors. Due to the increase in COVID19 impact in our area, our Board has ordered a “Masks Required” policy for people over 5 years old visiting inside the nature center. This policy will be reviewed regularly as guidance changes. Masks are available at the reception desk for those who have none.

Hours are 9 AM to 4 PM Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. The Schedule for Saturday is 9AM to Noon. Stop at the reception desk for a scavenger hunt sheet, a trail map, and other information, or check out kid’s binoculars, magnifying glasses, bug-catchers, clipboard, etc… Complimentary Coffee and Tea are available. A few more reception volunteers are needed. If you, or you and a friend, enjoy talking with people and providing information, and would like to help, please email info@sminc-lake-elmo.org. Please contact Connie at 651-491-3853 and she will try to convince you to give it a try – with no obligation!!

There was a deer population reduction project run by Washington County Oct 25-27 and November 8-10, 2021.  The total number of deer harvested was 44 between Lake Elmo Park Reserve (31 Hunters) and Sunfish Lake Park (8 Hunters).  This effort was necessary because aerial surveys had shown an overpopulation of deer, which results in winter starvation, more road kill, and more likely spread of Chronic Wasting Disease.

Hunt Details

  • 29 of the deer were antlerless deer (66%) and 15 were adult bucks (34%).
  • Hunt Period #1  – 25 deer (9 deer Sunfish)
  • Hunt Period #2 – 19 deer  (3 deer Sunfish)

Past Hunt #’s for reference ( In 2015 Sunfish Lake Park was not hunted)

YearHuntersDeer Harvested
19932939
19965065 (19 deer from Sunfish)
19995034
20004833
20055059
20084742
20134760
20153838

Trail Use Ruling

The Lake Elmo City Council on November 3rd voted to accept the Sunfish Lake Park User Group recommendation that there should be no hiking on the bike trails (also known as one-way single-track or mountain bike trails) and no biking on the multi-user trails, which are reserved for hiking, horseback, nature walks, skiing, snowshoeing, etc. The intent was to improve trail safety for all users by reducing the travel speed differences. User compliance will be appreciated by all. Icon signs describing the new rules have been installed at the trail heads. The signs at intersections between multi-user and bike trails will be up soon. The Minnesota Off Road Cyclists organization website https://trails.morcmtb.org/ has a section describing the current bike trail conditions in Sunfish Lake Park.

Our Saturday Family Nature Exploration takes place at 10-11AM each Saturday, coming up are

November 20, Winter Sleepers ( ecologist Mary Frick explains more detail about hibernation)

November 27, Turkey Hike (Audubon bird specialist Chase Davies takes you to look for wild turkeys)

For more detail visit the Events page tab (above)

The Eagles are Here!

We have been watching to see who built the big nest to the West of the nature center – now we know! The kids can sit on the “eggs” and try to hatch them.

Grace has finished the 2021 Mammal Survey of Sunfish Lake Park and you can see the pictures and read the report:

When you walk the trails in Sunfish Lake Park, look for the new navigation signs and the QR code/compass direction indicators. The QR code links to the Trail Info page on this website, which will provide specific information about each marked point. The compass will help us who are directionally challenged to find our way, even on cloudy days!

If you plan to use the biking trails, please check https://trails.morcmtb.org/ for trail condition information.

You may visit any time the Park is open (daylight hours), walk the trail around the nature center, and read “Bear Snores On” by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman. The story is suitable for young readers. The story trail program was initiated with the cooperation of the Washington County Library. Our storybook holders are lined up along the trail that surrounds the nature center, come and read the story (suitable for kids with grandparents). On the other side of the holders we have placed the illustrated version of Emy’s Guide to the Animals of Sunfish Lake Park, by now some of the pages are faded. You may not have heard, but Emy is the Director of Animal Communications at the Sally Manzara Interpretive Nature Center, and she has a quirky way of telling a story. Follow this link to read it.

The bees are winding down their activities for the winter. Volunteers have set up an outdoor apiary, and an observation hive in the nature center, where visitors can watch the bees make honey, wax, and more bees. Come and try to spot the Queen. Thanks Paul, Bob, Craig and Jim!

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 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

Volunteers have been tending the Rain Garden, Prairie Plant Specimen Planters, and Monarch Waystation – they are all displaying the different ways that plants have developed to spread their seeds.

We will soon be doing the Fall 2021 nesting survey of the birdhouse trail, if you would like to participate please email info@sminc-lake-elmo.org. 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.