Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center outside Spicer, Minnesota, grows with land donation

Nov. 10—SPICER

Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center

will soon be able to welcome the public into even more of the unique landscape of prairie, woods, wetlands and open water that make up the area around the southern shore of Lake Florida in Kandiyohi County.

"We wanted to just come personally and present this to you," said Scott Glup, chairman of the center's board, at the Nov. 7 meeting of the

Kandiyohi County Board

. "We are really excited about it."

The land in question is 21.9 acres along the environmental learning center's western border that, according to county GIS data, currently belongs to Burr Oak Inc. The odd-shaped parcel, 23-034-0040, is a heavily forested ridge line situated between a northeastern portion of the Lake Florida Slough and Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center.

"This is a really unique piece of property," Glup said.

The land will be purchased by Pheasants Forever, using funds from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Legacy Council. The wildlife conservation group will then donate the land to Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center, which will own it outright.

No County Board action is required, just a notification that the acquisition is taking place. Pheasants Forever had already sent a letter about the plans to the County Board.

The hope is to one day have a trail go through the area that was formed thousands of years ago as the last glaciers retreated. The ridges, called eskers, are made up of sediment such as gravel and sand that were left as glacial ice melted. When the glaciers retreated, the sediment deposits were left behind as these ridge lines in various areas of Minnesota.

"It is beautiful in there," Glup said. "I really look forward to someday having a trail through there."

Acquiring the land around the enclosed body of water just south of the main Lake Florida has been a goal of Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center for years and years. Back in 2021, PWELC was able to add the

last bit of undeveloped shoreline of Lake Florida

. That land is located on the northern edge of the center's rural Spicer campus and is the bottom hump of the lake's shoreline.

There are a few final pieces that need to be worked out before construction of a trail around the acquired land can be commenced. Prairie Woods is also working on becoming a designated natural resources-based park by the

Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission,

which would make the center eligible for additional grant opportunities. Prairie Woods also plans to commence creation of a new master plan.

"We have a lot of wonderful plans happening at Prairie Woods," said Jennifer Swenson, executive director.

Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center was established in 1992, on land with a history that dates back thousands of years.

After the glaciers left, Native Americans lived in the area for generations. In 1871, Anders Danielson and his family settled on the land when they arrived from Sweden.

Until the late 1980s, most of the land belonging to Prairie Woods was farmed by the Danielson family. The land was sold to Kandiyohi County by the Danielson family.

Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center offers visitors a variety of outdoor and environmental-based programming, events and recreation on nearly 560 acres. This includes a challenge course, shooting range, indoor climbing wall, multiple trails for hiking and cross country skiing and the chance to get close with nature.