“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

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)

Watch this site for the latest news.

Thanks to all those who joined us on Saturday November 14th at 9:30 AM to help remove buckthorn – it was the only plant with green leaves that day! More information below, or call George at 651-757-5610.

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.

Have you noticed that some of the trees in the park are marked with different colored tapes? 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 GREEN outline in the current sketch below (but omitting the yellow-outlined portions) – 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 selected Stantec to begin the heavy work of clearing and mulching, sometime this Fall. Volunteers are needed to do some of the manual tasks. We have resumed the Second Saturday buckthorn removal. Every volunteer hour contributed will be a $20 credit to the DNR contract effort – please come and sign in and lend a hand (or two). We have the tools and gloves.  Please contact George for further information or questions at 651-757-5610.  

The area outlined in bright green, but not the areas outlined in yellow, show the 40 acres to be restored under this program. We have marked some of the mature native trees (yellow=oak, red=maple, green=misc) so that the forest mulching machine operators will spare them.

An outline of the plan is:

A. There will be a volunteer effort starting on second Saturday mornings – Please contact George for further information or questions at 651-757-5610.

B. Before mid-November, 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 October Stantec did ground-level foliar spraying in the areas north of the parking lot that have been cleared of big buckthorn in the past two years by the efforts of our volunteers. That area will be seeded with fast-growing native grasses that will begin to build up a fuel reserve for eventual prescribed burns

D. In the third week of November (16-20) , Stantec plans to 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!

The photo submissions for the calendar are now closed, our panel of expert photographers is judging the entries. It is planned that those who submitted 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.

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.


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.

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.

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 how we see Emy as a quirky creature ready to tell you about the activities in our Park: