Olmsted County Parks Newsletter - Spring 2023
Volume 9, Issue 1
In this Issue:
Nature for Health, Volunteer & Employee Spotlight, Watercraft Rentals, and more...
Selective Campground Tree Harvest
by: Celeste Lewis
The campground at Chester Woods Park may look at little different to some of you next season, as we have harvested many of the Black Walnut and Ash trees that were there. I’m guessing most of you realize why the Ash trees needed to be removed, and that is because of the Emerald Ash Borer infestation. These trees were dying and needed to come down before they became hazards. The Black Walnut trees are another story….
These trees were not diseased or infested, they were not dying, however they were hazards. In the fall these trees dropped thousands of walnuts which would dent or break camper windows and canopies, but worse, became a hazard to visitors, staff, and volunteers alike with walking. In the grass you could easily twist or break an ankle. Not to mention, they really hurt when they hit you on the head! Over the years I cannot even begin to guess how many hours staff and volunteers have spent picking these up to try to limit these effects. The decision to take these trees down was not an easy one, but ultimately came down to the risk of damage and injury outweighing the benefit of shade.
Park staff and certified arbor care inspectors periodically assess the trees within the developed area of the park. Every year staff must make the decision to remove an average of a dozen trees due to hazard or disease. Because of this, the park has a plan in place that they plant at least a dozen trees every year. Successive planting has been occurring within the park since it was developed in the 90’s and will continue as other trees reach maturity or are listed as hazardous trees. Planting a diverse mix of hardwood trees will hopefully prevent a large disease infestation that would cause damage to the entire canopy within the campground.
The harvested walnut trees will not go to waste, the usable trees have been “sold” with credit going to the park in lumber/hardwood costs for the future. The remaining wood will be cut and split and used as firewood in the park.
The harvesting was done by park staff with the help of Sentence to Serve and volunteers on stump grinding, cutting, and splitting. Once the snow melts there will be evidence of the work done and what needs to be done.
Over the next few years, the park will be planting a variety of trees in replacement of the removed trees. Of course, they will not magically fill the void of the large Walnuts, but with a mix of quick growing soft woods, (River Birch, Poplars, etc.) and slow growing hardwoods, we will get our canopy back eventually. In the meantime, if you have any questions feel free to reach out to park staff and we will gladly field any questions you may have.
Friends of Oxbow (FOX) Hat Rack
by: Kris Nelson
If you haven’t been to the park lately, come and check out the progress on the New Nature Center! As construction inches closer to completion, we are also inching closer to our goal of $1 million toward the New Nature Center. Currently, we are just under $700,000 and hope to add to that total with some grants and generous year-end donations. Merchandise from Friends of Oxbow was a hot item this fall with shirts, hats, and key chains frequently selling out. One of our awesome volunteers, Harold, made us a new hat rack display. Much of the wood used in building the rack came from tree trimmings found at the park. We are so grateful to volunteers who help Friends of Oxbow with projects big and small.
Friends of Chester Woods Watercraft Rental
by: Ernie Freudenburg
There are many within our county that love to canoe, kayak, and paddle board on Chester Lake. Loading up a personal watercraft every time to be used on the lake becomes quite a hassle. Our records show that 2011 was the first year that FOCW was able to offer personal watercraft storage close to the boat ramp accessing Chester Lake. This has proved to be a great partnership with the park. Over the years, this program has become very popular. All the information to register to reserve a rack is available on our FOCW website at https://friendsofchesterwoods.org/watercraft. If you are wondering if there is still some space for your private canoe, kayak, or paddle board, go to this website and scroll all the way to the bottom where you will discover which racks have already been rented.
On the first business day of the year, a group of FOCW Board members meet at the park office to begin assigning storage racks to the families that have already sent in registrations. This year, 2023, we assigned 30 racks just from the registrations we received prior to the New Year. Be not alarmed! We have a total of 50 racks that we can rent. Imagine that, in 2011 we started the program with one rack that held space for 6 canoes or kayaks and now we’re up to 50!
Here is the good news! We began this program charging $100 a rack for the entire season. The rental rate in 2023 is still the same. Besides offering a great value, in 2022 no problems with tampering or vandalism were reported. The owners must agree to have a robust locking system for their watercraft, along with making sure that everything is strapped down tightly because the wind can shift these watercrafts.
Watercraft can be stored from April 1 until November 1 of each season. If you are at the boat ramp in Chester Woods and see many watercrafts of various sizes and colors, these are all private. All of the park rental watercraft are located at the swimming beach and are rented from the beach house location. Whether you use your private watercraft or rent from the park, the main thing is to stay safe on Chester Lake.
Nature for Health
by: Clarissa Schrooten
Humans are spending less time in nature than ever before; the results are not good for health and wellbeing. The year 2008 marked the first time in history that the majority of humans are living in urban rather than rural areas. These statistics are generating attention from both naturalists and scientists.
Japan was the first to see the drastic effects of stressful urban environments, people were being overworked and causing employees to die at young ages from stress-related illnesses. This led Japan to pave the way to finding the benefits of nature. In the 1980’s the Japanese term Shinrin yoku, which literally translates to “forest bath,” has been making a big splash around the world. In the act of forest bathing there is no actual bath or removing of one’s clothes, it is truly a nature therapy. The basic idea is to spend time in nature focusing on the senses to distract the mind from the typical busyness of everyday life. The benefits of this practice are amazing, and worth trying for a longer and healthier life.
Research has the numbers to prove the health benefits. When comparing leisure forest walks to urban walks people on average find a 6% decrease in heart rates, lowered blood pressure, and 12% decrease in cortisol blood levels (the stress hormone). Time in nature has shown decreased levels of anxiety and depression. Conversely, time in nature increases cognitive clarity and creativity. Extended time in nature can promote the body’s ability to produce natural killer cells (immune cells that fight viruses and cancer cells). The list of benefits goes on, to the point of doctors prescribing nature as treatment for certain conditions. Ask park staff about the Southeast Minnesota Park Rx group for more information on this topic.
Every individual can receive the benefits of nature; it is a resource that is available to anyone who can make the time for a leisure walk in a local city, county, state, or national park. Enjoying the great outdoors takes on a whole new meaning.
by: Celeste Lewis
The Olmsted County Parks Department is not a very large department. With only 13 full time staff, new staff doesn’t come along very often as most of the staff are here until retirement. This is just what happened a couple of months ago. One of the crew retired, and now Jeremy Olson is the newest member of our small but mighty department.
Jeremy’s official title is Park and Natural Resource Technician. He will be filling the large, well-used boots of the beloved Roger Hardy at the Campus Shop. Jeremy started his career at Olmsted County in 2015 as an operator and maintenance at Olmsted Waste to Energy Facility. He then transferred to Facilities as a Senior Building Systems Technician for 2.5 years, and now he’s joining us in Parks where we are excited to have him!
Building maintenance has been a part of Jeremy his whole life. He grew up in Rochester, where his family owned and maintained apartment complexes. After graduating from John Marshall High School, Jeremy enrolled in Rochester Community and Technical College in the BUM (Building Utility Maintenance) Program. He has since worked many construction and maintenance positions which all benefit him tremendously in his new role in Olmsted County Parks.
When asked about a typical day, he responded with, “it depends on the season…” During the winter months, if there is snow the day can start very early with snow and ice removal on the parking lots and sidewalks of the county campus buildings. In the warmer months, its grounds clean up, maintenance, and landscaping. Another large part of the job, year-round, is working on equipment for all the parks as well as assisting with larger projects at the respective parks.
Jeremy’s favorite things about working for Olmsted County Parks are the fact that he can be outside, is able to run equipment, and can help make the “parks a better place.”
When not working, Jeremy enjoys spending time with his family, fishing, duck hunting, spending time at the family’s cabin in Northern Wisconsin and competing in Ju Jitsu and kickboxing competitions.
Jeremy really enjoys the new adventure that comes with working in the parks department and says he “can see (himself) here until (he) retire(s)”
by: Jaide Ryks
To start off the New Year I would like to introduce you all to Tyler Nickel, an Oxbow Park volunteer! Tyler has been volunteering in the zoo and park since August 2022. Tyler spends most of his time volunteering in the zoo but enjoys getting out into the park, too. When asked what his favorite zoo animal to work with is, Tyler responded, “All of them. They each have a unique personality and reason for being at the zoo.” In his free time, Tyler enjoys hiking and bird watching at none other than Oxbow Park, spending time with his family and cat, Jack, playing board and video games, and relaxing on Sundays watching NFL football. His favorite thing about volunteering at Oxbow Park is talking to and learning from the great staff here at the park! We greatly appreciate Tyler’s efforts, thank you Tyler!
Next time you’re out at Oxbow, make sure to give volunteer Tyler a shout hello!