Warner as Community Partner
It was at Camp Wilder that I first experienced the awesome land that would later become Warner Nature Center. At the time, the Science Museum was a partner in providing summer programs. I was one of hundreds of kids from various St. Paul community and social service agencies that attended summer day camp at Camp Wilder. We spent our days exploring the woods, doing nature crafts, and having fun at our primitive day camp site. Once my family moved from Roseville out to family land on Big Marine Lake, my mother started volunteering as a Warner trail guide.
Each year, for fifteen years, she enjoyed her experiences with school children and relationships with other guides and staff. Many are the pins, books, and nature drawings that she earned, fitting remembrances for each year of service. It was not surprising that her sister, who lived next door, also joined the trail guide community. Always planning to keep up the family tradition, now that I am retired, I started as a volunteer in August, only to hear soon afterwards that Warner has been asked to close its doors. Now I am even more grateful for the many connections I had with Warner through the years.
As a staff member of Wilder Forest for sixteen years, I treasured our time with Warner staff as we gathered annually for a Christmas potluck and gratefully attended class trainings at Warner to increase our skills and knowledge for the nature programming that we offered. I also remember our joint effort with Warner and the St. Croix Watershed Research Station as we envisioned our plan for the St. Croix Greenway Corridor while we hiked through parts of our adjoining land.
After the closure of Wilder Forest, the Wilder Foundation’s center for youth development and community building, I went to work for Dodge Nature Center. There my contact continued with Warner, our sister nature center, with whom we enjoyed site visits and phone calls for learning and sharing support. Warner staff have contributed to the work of the Minnesota Naturalist Association (MNA), a professional association that brings together staff from many nature centers for workshops and an annual conference. They have regularly hosted MNA training sessions, including an incredible one I remember when conditions were perfect for collecting and studying an awesome array of different kinds of fungi.
Although I have not been a trail guide, I am familiar with Warner’s class curriculum, trail guide volunteer program, and facilities. They are all top notch. I have held Warner staff in esteem all these years for their leadership, best practices in nature programming, and volunteer program, but also for their heart-felt dedication to children and families, the volunteers that make the programs possible, the naturalist community in Minnesota, and the local community of which they are clearly a significant and much-loved member. Thanks to every one of you that has contributed to this outstanding legacy.
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Former Program Director at Wilder Forest and Dodge Nature Center