Dodge Nature Center in West St. Paul

Dodge Nature Center’s $40 Million Campaign

Thanks to Southview Garden Center for their support.

Today the Dodge Nature Center in West St. Paul announced the launch of a $40 million campaign to make improvements and secure the future of the pioneering institution. Founded in 1967 by Olivia Irvine Dodge, it’s one of the first nature centers in Minnesota and a leader in environmental education.

“The pandemic and distance learning have highlighted that kids really need hands-on learning and time outdoors,” says Dodge Executive Director Jason Sanders. “It benefits them academically, mentally, psychologically, physically.

Building for the Future

The campaign will bring a series of improvements, including:

  • Environmentally friendly updates to buildings that are also compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • Two miles of trails at the Shephard Farm property in Cottage Grove.
  • A renovated kitchen space at the main property that literally allows for farm-to-table food preparation.
  • An expansion of their existing scholarship program to make their education offerings available to more students, regardless of income.
  • Additions to the staff, including a restoration specialist and a naturalist dedicated to equity and inclusion.
  • Establishing an endowment fund that will secure the future of the Dodge Nature Center.

“Dodge has amazing programs and teachers and natural spaces, but that doesn’t mean that much unless it’s accessible to everyone,” says Sanders. “We’ll add elevators, restrooms, wider doorways in historic buildings. We’ll improve some trails so they’re firm and stable for people using wheelchairs or strollers.”

While they hope to reach the $40 million goal, Dodge Nature Center has already received more than $28 million toward this campaign. With that head start, they’ll begin some of these initiatives sooner, including updating trails and gathering spaces.

Free and Open Trails

“We’ve been thrilled to see so many people using trails at our West St. Paul and Mendota Heights properties,” says Sanders. “Especially during these last six months, our existing eight-plus miles of trails have given people space to spread out, get fresh air, see wild animals in the woods and farm animals in the pastures.”

This campaign will ensure the trails and grounds remain free and open to the public. Dodge Nature Center trails are two of our five top nature trails in West St. Paul.

Vision for Tomorrow

“My aunt had the foresight to preserve this beautiful piece of land at a time when the area was rapidly developing,” says campaign co-chair Vicki Ford, a niece of Olivia Dodge. “Today, Dodge is an oasis in the midst of a busy metropolitan area and a place that has inspired curiosity and wonder for more than 50 years.”

Olivia Dodge
Olivia Dodge

Find out more about the Nourishing Everyone’s Need for Nature Campaign and consider making a donation.

Local stories like this happen with your support.

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