Last week the Arb Naturalists explored Big Woods State Park. Big Woods nests near Nerstrand, MN, about 10 miles south of Northfield. The 2,882 acres of parkland primarily consist of mature upland forest with sugar maple, basswood, ironwood, red oak, and bur oak. One exciting characteristic of Big Woods is that it is basically free from buckthorn and honeysuckle, two of the most problematic invasive species in the Arb. Arb Director Nancy Braker and Arb Manager Matt Elbert believe that Big Woods State Park provides a good model to strive towards in their forest restoration projects. Although the Arboreteum’s forests are young in comparison to Big Woods State Park, we aren’t doing too shabby. Just last week avid birdwatcher Owen McMurtrey ’12 spotted and photographed a black-backed woodpecker in the Lower Arb. This is the first sighting of the black-backed woodpecker in Dakota County since 1930!
Professor of Biology, Emeritus Gary Wagenbach guided the Arb Naturalists during our visit to Nerstrand State Park. Gary lives near the park on a piece of property that he is restoring from conventional farmland to native plant communities. During our walk, Gary’s ecological expertise, his knowledge of local history, and his quick stride kept all of us scrambling to keep up and hear what he had to say. Gary’s stories about the Valley Grove Preservation Society were particularly interesting. The Society raised $300,000 to outbid a developer and restore a 50-acre chunk of land that is adjacent to the Park. This inspiring story provides an example that Carleton could follow in the future. As Northfield grows, Carleton should consider working with private landowners to create buffer zones between the Arboretum and municipal development.