Summer E-Blast

Here you can find news, upcoming events, and volunteer opportunities. Thank you for keeping up with us!

Nature Center News

Dammen Day 2023

Firstly, we would like to thank you all for your continued support of our Dammen Mentorship Program.

At our Family Fun Day Fundraiser, we had 316 participants, sold 220 ducks for our duck race, and raised over $2,000. Visitors enjoyed atl-atl throwing, stump pull, group skis, bison chip throwing, archery, water tables, coloring pages, temporary tattoos, a storybook walk, cornhole and lawn games, canoeing, and our annual duck race! 5 lucky ducks made it to our Dobbins Creek finish line first, and those winners took home a prize basket.

Our mentees have had a wonderful summer so far, and we are excited to watch them continue to grow and learn!

LCCMR Grant Funding Approved 2024-2027

We are thrilled to announce that we have been recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission of Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) for funding through 2027, which funds one intern position every year for three years, as well as our Outreach Naturalist's position. This grant allows our staff to reach students outside of Austin, and extend environmental education opportunities to communities far and wide. With our current grant funding, Kelly Bahl, the JCHNC's Outreach Naturalist, has worked hard to increase out of Austin education programs from 39 classes a year to 99 classes a year, while maintaining our ~200 annual Austin classes. We are thrilled to be able to serve more students, and that we have such an incredible outreach naturalist to make this possible.

The Fight Against Buckthorn Continues

Buckthorn has been a persistent and harmful species in Nature Center forests. Since our property covers over 530 acres, conquering buckthorn often feels like a near impossible task! Luckily, we are not fighting alone.

Thank you to volunteers that have assisted us on pulling buckthorn, both at our volunteer work party, and at our Austin ESL field trip! Austin ESL students did an excellent job, and enjoyed a canoe trip as well as a guided hike. We are grateful to be supported by our Austin community!

Goats; our Hungry Superheroes Return

The Nature Center will be home to a herd of Goats on the Go for the next few weeks, and will serve as a buffet of invasive species for these goats to enjoy. Goats are herbivores, and are a big fan of plants that our naturalists want to get rid of. We are always happy to provide them with bountiful snacks, and get a cleaner forest as a result!

So, why goats? Herbicides can run off, are dangerous to handle, and lead to genetically resistant weeds. Power equipment burns fossil fuel and produces CO2. Goats go where people can't, eat what most animals won't, and leave behind nothing but fertilizer. It's a win, win, win! Stop by the Nature Center to see them in action.

Radical Raptors, Survival Week, and Eagle Bluff, oh my!

Our community has had a busy summer here at the Nature Center. In July, we offered 2 survival week classes, Dammen Family Fun Day, 2 nature plays and senior specials, and 19 summer classes. Classes range from gardening and garden yoga, to astronomy, to rock climbing.

While some of our classes have a cost for registering, we offer a lot of free programming to visitors. In fact, our Nature play programming is always free to the public, along with Sola Fide viewing, and more!

Additionally, all learners are eligible for a summer scholarship, which covers all costs for classes $60 and under, and half of the cost for classes over $60.

Water your trees, please!

Austin is in a drought. Droughts can have a devastating effect on our environment, particularly on trees. Prolonged drought, like we have experienced the last 3 years is especially problematic for trees. We are urging you to combat drought this year by watering your boulevard trees. Big trees, small trees, young trees, old trees; it doesn't matter. Even the biggest mature tree can only handle so much lack of water.

As you may know, Emerald Ash Borer is going to claim thousands of trees in Austin in the next few years. That is why it's so important to protect what we already have.

We would like to thank all of the residents who are already watering their trees. Thank you for caring for and preserving our urban forest.

-Kris, Community Forestry Intern

To learn more, click here!

Friends Focus

We want to thank our volunteers, friends board members, and mentees for their hard work making our Dammen Family Fun Day a success! We also want to thank all of you for your participation, enthusiasm, and generous donations that will allow our program to continue. The Dammen Mentorship Program is one that is dear to our hearts; we are thrilled to be able to provide such a unique opportunity that encourages growth, nurtures leadership, and shows what a natural resources career path can look like.

Coming Up

August 2nd (Wed) -

  • 3:30 pm, Volunteer Outdoor Work Day

August 3rd (Thurs) -

  • 10 am, Senior Special Will Bjorndal
  • 1 pm, Nature Play with Will Bjorndal

August 5th (Sat) -

  • 6-7 pm Free Outdoor Music Concert

August 9-11 (Wed-Fri)

  • 4:30-7:30 pm Mower County Fair Programs

August 12th (Sat)

  • 7-10:30 pm Statewide Star Party at Sola Fide Observatory

August 23rd (Wed)

  • 4 pm Bird Program Classroom

August 24th (Thurs)

  • 10:00 am Senior Special with Dr. Jeff Tamplin, Turtle Biologist
  • 1:00 pm Nature Play with Dr. Jeff Tamplin, Turtle Biologist

August 26th (Sat)

  • 9-11 pm Sola Fide Observatory


Volunteer Opportunities

  • Staff the Interpretive Center — There are always days that we are looking for help, specifically on the weekends. Fill out our volunteer contact form and we will add you to our email list. 

  • Tours — Give tours driving one of our electric vehicles along the Nature Center trails.​

  • Combat Invasive Species — Learn to identify and remove buckthorn, honeysuckle, and other invasive species.

  • Animal transport — Bring birds of prey to and from the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus.

Nature Note - Great Egrets Then and Now

Author: Sydney Weisinger – Teacher/Naturalist 

"Have you ever seen a tall snowy-white bird on the water in summer and wondered what it was? Those are great egrets. They are in the heron family. While most people use the terms “heron” and “egret” loosely, most egrets are white. This sleek white bird can reach heights of over 3 feet tall, with a long yellow beak and black stilt-like legs. During mating season, the patch on their face turns a lime green and their back feathers grow into an elegant plume. Although the fanciful feathers of this bird do a great job attracting a mate, it has a long, more complex history that extends out of the realm of birds."

To learn more, read the rest of Sydney's Nature Note here!

Become a Friends Member

Why join the friends? Well, our Friends allow us to offer more high quality programming, conserve our natural spaces, and continue to grow! As a friends member, you will receive...

  • an invitation to the Friends Annual Meeting
  • $5.00 off all Summer Adventure Programs
  • 15% off all Nature Center merchandise​​
  • the chance to participate in members-only events and classes for youth and families at the Nature Center
  • a discounted annual bus trip

Join the Friends here!

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