The 2022 Annual Sunfish Lake Park Buckthorn Removal Festival took place on Saturday October 22nd! See homepage for some pictures.

We are removing forty years’ growth of invasive buckthorn from Sunfish Lake Park. It is a difficult process, but someone has to do it, and that someone is George!

Monthly Buckthorn Removal Starts Saturday September 17th at 9:30 AM and Continues the Second Saturday of each Month. Contact George at 651-757-5610 for details.

Have you noticed that some areas of the park look much more open now? 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. Our selected contractor, Stantec has done the heavy work of clearing and mulching. Volunteers are needed to do some of the manual tasks. As soon as the buckthorn dares to show its early green leaves, we will resume 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. The mature native trees were marked so that the forest mulching machine operators spared them.

Here is the map of the area that has been mulched, with areas in purple that needed hand-work (too steep to mulch) and yellow circles where invasive oriental bittersweet has achieved a foothold and needs to be watched and removed.

An outline of the plan is:

A. There is a volunteer effort continuing on second Saturday mornings – Visit the Events tab above to see the current schedule. Please contact George for further information or questions at 651-757-5610.

B. DONE In the last few months of 2020, volunteers cut/treat the small buckthorn that was 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. DONE In October 2020 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. DONE In Winter 2020-2021 Stantec did the forestry mulching, there are only a few acres left that need to be hand-cut/chain-sawed.

E. DONE Now that the old-growth buckthorn has mostly been removed from the 40-acre restoration area, buckthorn stump sprouts will be sprayed next fall to kill off any new growth. In Spring 2021 about 15 acres of the area was seeded with native woodland grasses.

F – final step in this contract, and then ongoing maintenance – In addition to improving wildlife habitat, the grasses will help to provide fuel for a prescribed burn (probably Fall 2022 or Spring 2023) . Spot applications of broad-leaf herbicide were done in Spring to help control other broad-leaf weeds (like burdock). A Stantec ecologist walked the woodland during the 2022 growing season to monitor recovery of the native ground layer plants and guide weed control efforts. Of course these dates are estimates and the actual times depend on weather and growing conditions.

With extra support from a Minnesota Parks and Trails Council Friends grant, we celebrated Earth Day 2022 with three Saturday mornings of planting oak trees (130 seedlings and saplings) and several acres of native grasses and sedges, followed by picnic lunch.

We have applied for a follow-on “Phase 2” DNR-CPL contract to do another 140 acres of buckthorn removal and habitat restoration, and hope to get an award by the end of the year.