Welcome to May – Spring has definitely arrived! The trees and bushes are leafing out, and the birds have begun to choose nesting sites and mates. The squirrels are chasing each other around, which means more squirrels will soon arrive.

The bees are doing well. Three volunteers have started a beekeeping program, and plan to set up an observation hive in the nature center this summer, where visitors can watch the bees make wax, honey, and more bees! Check out the apiary building activity on YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmWuwBJQjDQ

The Friends of Lake Elmo’s Sunfish Lake Park are excited about the result of our latest cooperation with the Washington County Library! Andrew, Rebecca, Teresa and Olivia from the Library (left to right in pic) installed story boards on our holders. They video-recorded a story reading, and other activities around the Sally Manzara Interpretive Nature Center (including beekeeping progress). Andrew even suited up to visit the bees “up close and personal”.

You may visit any time the Park is open, walk the trail around the nature center, and read the story “One Dog Canoe” by Mary Casanova. Story is suitable for early grades, up to and including grandparents of all ages. On the other side of the holders we have placed the illustrated version of Emy’s Guide to the Animals of Sunfish Lake Park. 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.

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.

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 areas marked in Purple will require some hand work, there has been a lot of progress made on Second Saturdays by volunteers who are removing buckthorn that can’t be reached by large machines. Next opportunity is Saturday May 8th at 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.

If you have not see forestry mulching in action, you can check out this home video –

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.

Volunteers are tending the Rain Garden, Prairie Plant Specimen Planters, and Monarch Waystation so they will be in full glory in the early Summer.

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. 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.