Inspiring commitment to the thoughtful care of the environment.
In 2013 Dodge acquired 140 acres in Cottage Grove, MN, referred to as the Shepard Farm. The property is three miles east of U.S. 61 along 70th Street. Shepard Farm's status became unclear when Connie Shepard Otis died in 2010.
Mrs. Otis transferred the property to the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation by warranty deed in 1997. Her family had a long relationship with the foundation as her late husband and father both served on Wilder's board of directors. It was the foundation who worked closely with Mrs. Otis's brother, Stanley Shepard, to find another organization to acquire the property as Wilder's mission changed.
The Dodge Nature Center was presented a packet of information about the Shepard Farm in February 2013 and informed the property was ours if interested. Upon receipt, less than a year from Dodge being approached to receive a home on two-acres next to its main property, the board worked diligently to determine if this acquisition made sense, knowing that Mrs. Otis has a lifelong friend from early childhood with the nature center's founder Mrs. Olivia Irvine Dodge. In the end, the Shepard Farm was determined to be a great opportunity to expand the nature center's reach and the deal was sealed by September 2013.
So now the Dodge Nature Center has 462 acres in the communities of West St. Paul, Mendota Heights, and Cottage Grove. Programming will continue on our main and Marie properties in West St. Paul, and Lilly property in Mendota Heights, while we determine how to make the Shepard Farm available. Staff and volunteers are busy preparing the property. As soon as more formal plans are known we will share.
The City of Cottage Grove has been wonderful welcoming Dodge to their community. We look forward to serving residents from Cottage Grove and the surrounding areas.
Naturalist Fellowship Program
In January 2013 four individuals became the first "Fellows" class, replacing our former seasonal naturalist program. The fellows live on the Dodge property in a residential home and support environmental education. The first class graduated in August. Moving forward each class will be at Dodge from September to August.
Local Partnerships in Education
A growing partnership with Independent School District 197 that has the potential to expand environmentally-focused curriculum to more area schools. The latest example of our success in this area is our partnership with Heritage E-Stem Middle School.
Premier Nature-Based Preschool
Now as a national model for nature-based preschools around the country, Dodge Nature Preschool is celebrating more than a decade of educating preschoolers about the natural world.
The Marie Property is being rediscovered for its beautiful walking trails after a long restoration process to remove non-native and invasive species such as buckthorn, burdock, and garlic mustard. A new wetland walkway was recently built to allow further access.
Outreach programs are expanding Dodge Nature Center’s reach to a greater number of area schools and businesses, therefore increasing the number of people interested in nature and taking care of our environment.
Volunteers at Dodge continue to be an integral part of support to our mission in providing exceptional experiences in nature and environmental education.
New sources of revenue and support are being developed to succeed the vital leadership and contributions of Mrs. Olivia Dodge.
Increased awareness about Dodge has more people from all over the Twin Cities discovering the nature center as a retreat just minutes from the city. Be a part of what’s next. Thank you for your continued support of Dodge.