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.

The Stillwater Schools Native American Parent Advisory Committee and SMINC are again partnering in a 3 Sisters Garden. In mid-June this Garden was blessed by Georgia, planted by Mason, and fenced by Tony. The corn is about six feet tall as of early August, with well-developed tassels. The squash is growing amazingly well!

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: Volunteer 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 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 are resuming the Second Saturday buckthorn removal on September 12th at 9:30 AM. 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.  

An outline of the plan is:

A. There will be a volunteer effort starting on second Saturday mornings starting September 12th at 9:30 AM. Please meet at the nature center and find out what you can do to help. Every 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.

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, Stantec will 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, Stantec will 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!

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.

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, but be prepared for mosquitoes, and 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.


(see calendar page and event page for details)

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.

Friday September 25th – Fundraising Art Workshop

Julie Schroeder will be offering an on-line art workshop in support of future Art Workshops at the nature center. Please visit the Events page for more details, and to register and pay for this event.

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.

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