The public is invited to attend the dedication of the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom on Wednesday, May 20, at 11:30 a.m. in Como Regional Park.
The Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom (CWOC) has been a community-driven project since 2006. Supporters, students and community members will gather outdoors on the southside of the Como Woodland between the Kilmer Memorial Fireplace and the Como Park Pool at 1221 Como Ave.
(If it rains, the ceremony will be held at the Midway Picnic Shelter at the corner of Midway Parkway and Horton Avenue.)
Tim Chase, Murray Middle School science teacher and MAEE’s 2014 Environmental Educator of the Year, will be the keynote speaker. He will share his experiences on how giving all students opportunities to explore the natural world arouses their curiosity and opens up new career possibilities for them.
Three school groups who have used the CWOC extensively will be attending the dedication: Great River Montessori, Murray and Como Park Senior High schools. After the ceremony students will plant a tree near the Kilmer Fireplace and take part in a habitat restoration activity in the woodland (the public is encouraged to take part).
This 18-acre parcel located at the southwest corner of the park, is the largest woodland left in Como Regional Park. What had been a declining woodlot (overrun with invasive species, trash and random bike trails) is now its way to becoming a healthy forest and prairie outdoor learning space. Invasive species are beginning to loosen their grip and are being replaced by native wildflowers and shrubs. More than 2,500 feet of ADA-accessible trails have been installed.
The idea for developing an outdoor classroom in Como Park came from members of the District 10 Community Council’s Environment Committee in the late 1990s after working to remove buckthorn from the woodlot. In 2006 these committee members formed the Como Woodland Advisory Committee, and funding was secured from the City of St. Paul and various other sources to proceed with the project.
The long process of restoration has been done through the hard work of community volunteers and students with the support of the City of Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Department, and also with a grant from the Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund.
The woodland will continue to need community and students volunteers to help maintain the outdoor classroom’s multiple plant communities. Parks and Rec is developing a pilot program called Eco Stewards to support and coordinate those volunteers.
The CWOC’s mission is to be a place of learning, recreation and nature appreciation for all ages and species. A fox family has been in residence for several years. More than 40 species of birds have been documented using this urban woodland at different times of the year.
Back in May 2011 the restored Joyce Kilmer Memorial Fireplace, which stands at the center of the woodland, was rededicated with much fanfare. Now the time has come to gather again to dedicate the surrounding woodland’s new incarnation as the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom.
All are welcome.
You can find out more about the Como Woodland at www.comowoodland.org.
Deb Robinson is a member of the Como Woodland Advisory Committee.