Major improvements to the Dodge Nature Center in Minnesota will make it more accessible to visitors, allowing them to explore nature and learn about the environment. A recent $300,000 challenge grant from the Foundation will build an outdoor pavilion, restroom facilities and parking areas at the Nature Center’s newest property, Shepard Farm.
Shepard Farm, located about three miles from MPC's St. Paul Park Refinery, includes 140 acres of old growth forest and farm land, but lacks adequate facilities, which has limited programming to small field trips and camps. The improvements are expected to develop the property to accommodate several thousand visits a year from the surrounding school districts and youth groups. The grant and matching funds will support capacity-building improvements including a permanent, ADA-compliant restroom, an asphalt parking lot capable of handling multiple buses, and a giant pavilion that would double as an outdoor classroom and event venue to offer environmental and STEM education programming.
Shepard Farm is part of the larger Dodge Nature Center, which was one of the first nature centers in Minnesota. The Center has developed an expansive environmental education curriculum, providing more than 60,000 nature experiences to visitors each year. The original Dodge Nature Center in Mendota Heights, Minnesota, features more than 460 acres of wetlands, woodlands, grasslands and savanna; honeybees; community garden plots; outdoor classrooms; farm animals; wild animals and eight miles of trails. The Center’s programs seek to convey knowledge and appreciation of good environmental stewardship that will result in cleaner water, cleaner air, and the conservation of land and natural resources.
“The partnership between the Dodge Nature Center and the Foundation was a natural fit. Both organizations have a mission of being good stewards of our natural environment, and value educating the next generation to continue in these efforts,” said Kate Blair, government and public affairs manager. “This Foundation grant and the matching funds will open up Shepard’s Farm to thousands of new experiences in the east metro each year. We are proud to be a part of a project that will have a long-lasting impact on conservation and environmental education in Minnesota.”