Snowshoes standing up

Renovations Come True at Nature Center1978 Nature Center Photo

Since 1978 the visitor center at the Maplewood Nature Center has been hosting environmental programs for young and old. What do you do with a 40-year-old well-used, well-loved City building?  Update it to make it work for today!  

This year visitors will notice a change inside the 2,400 square foot building:  the iconic two-step sunken room or “amphitheater” is no longer.  “Where’s the pit?” is a common question heard as visitors step inside.  While it’s true a beloved icon has been filled, the touch-and-see room still sports the habitat theme of shallow marsh surrounded by mixed oak woodlands, represented by colorful trees, a crawl-through log, taxidermy owls, songbirds and waterfowl.  The level surface and upgraded restrooms improve accessibility so people with mobility difficulties can better enjoy the visitor center and indoor programs.

Energy improvements include a new furnace and venting system, additional insulation, replacing fluorescent lights with LED fixtures, and some new windows.  Other interior changes include new paint, carpet, and polished concrete floors instead of laminate tile.  The tar and gravel flat roof was replaced with an EDPM membrane (extremely durable synthetic rubber roofing), and a metal roof replaced the former cedar shakes.  Wood siding was replaced with maintenance-free cement board siding. Overall, the improvements will reduce maintenance needs and improve the energy efficiency and safety of building.  We hope that you will come to love the renovated building as much as the old, and we invite you to join us this winter for new and old favorite programs!

Maintaining What We Have - Sustain-ably 

Maplewood conducted an asset management study in 2015.  The study identified all City assets, their condition, and cost to maintain.  The study will be used in the City’s asset management program, allowing the City to be proactive in maintenance and replacement needs.  The Nature Center, built in 1978, was identified as a high priority for maintenance improvements in the asset management study.  

Building codes were different in 1978.  Energy efficiency was not the top priority.  Now, all City-owned buildings must be built to the green building standards outlined in the International Green Construction Code.  If renovations are done, they must also meet this code.  The City adopted the code in 2013 with the creation of the Green Building Program.  One element of the program is requiring high-efficiency building techniques and appliances.    
Green Building Code
In 2014 the Maplewood South Fire Station was the first building constructed under the Green Building Program.  That building included energy-saving features such as solar-reflective roof, increased roof insulation, updated appliances, and timed LED lights.  The South Fire Station has seen a 38 percent decrease in energy use compared to the average annual per foot use of the other fire stations currently operated by the City.

The 2017 Nature Center renovation followed green building standards such as increased roof insulation, LED lights and fixtures, and a high-efficiency furnace.  “By renovating to the green building standards, the Nature Center will reduce energy use and costs,” states Jason Brash, the City’s Building Official.  The City encourages private developments to follow the green building standards.  For more information on how your next project can be built to the green building standards, contact the City’s building department at 651-249-2300.

Tips for your Yard

Holiday Lights

Do you have a roll of broken or unneeded holiday lights at your home? Throughout the month of January 2018 you can dispose of your broken, old, or unneeded holiday lights at three City of Maplewood locations (Community Center, City Hall, and the Nature Center).  Please only drop off lights.  Large plastic holiday decorations may look nice at your home but they are hard to recycle.

Reduce your Winter Salt Diet

Protect our waters from salt pollution!  Here are some facts and tips on winter salt use for homeowners:

  • A 50 lb bag of salt is enough to permanently pollute 10,000 gallons of water.
  • Chlorine in our lakes from road is harmful to fish, aquatic insects, and plants.
  • Shovel or snowblow right after it snows to help prevent buildup of snow and ice.
  • If your walkway is still slippery after shoveling, use traction grit (crushed quartzite rock) instead of salt. Grit does not run off into storm sewers and is less likely to be tracked into your home. 
  • If you must use salt, keep in mind that salt does not melt ice below 20° F.  Spreading more will not change this. Apply no more than one large coffee mug of salt per 1.5 – 2 parking spaces of area.

Christmas Tree Recycling

Christmas Tree DisposalResidents with trash service through the Maplewood Trash Plan are eligible for one free Christmas tree pick up.  Natural trees will be collected by Republic Services the weeks of January 8 and January 15.  Remove ornaments and lights and place your tree at the curb on your trash collection day.  Do not wrap tree in a plastic bag.  Contact Republic Services for more information at 651-455-8634.

Items for Donation

Do you have items such as clothes and small household goods that are still usable?  Do you want to make a positive impact in someoClothes_donation_EHI-610x300ne's life? There are lots of charities, non-profits, consignment stores, thrift stores and antique shops in the area that could use your unwanted items. It's not just clothes. Household items, furniture, even building supplies can be donated.  For more information on where to donate items visit and click on the A to Z Recycling and Disposal Guide, or call 651-633-EASY (3279) 24/7.

Out and About - 

Get outside in Maplewood! It is FUN to venture outdoors in winter.  Just bundle up and explore our winter wonderland…

SNOWSHOEkids running on snowshoes
Snowshoes may be rented at the Maplewood Nature Center during regular hours.  $5/pair.  Please call ahead to ensure availability.  Or try snowshoeing at one of the Nature Center’s scheduled winter programs.

SNOWSHOES & TRACKS (All Ages), Saturday, January 13, 10am - 3pm.MNC Winter landscape
Learn how to walk, run, and turn around on snowshoes.  Learn about Animal Tracks and Signs from self-guiding activities.  A naturalist will answer nature questions, and orient you to the nature center trails. Try wood or metal snowshoes (wood snowshoes require 6+ inches of snow). Sleds will be available for pulling young kids.  Dress in layers and wear winter boots.  Hot chocolate for all attendees!  Free to attend. Bring your own snowshoes, or snowshoes available to rent for ages 4 to adult: $5/pair.  Drop-in program available. 

Gary Hipple credit MNC PondHIKE IN A PARK
Pull on a pair of warm boots with good tread and explore Maplewood Parks and Neighborhood Preserves to look for tracks in the snow, watch birds search for food, and explore in nature. 

Leon Lillie credit  FatBikeRIDE A FAT TIRE BIKE
Did you know that fat tire bikes can go almost anywhere in the snow?  You can ride to visit the Creature at Joy Park, or petal a snow-covered lake shore trail if your tires are really wide!  Many bike shops in Minnesota rent or sell fat tire bikes to explore a wintery landscape.  Locally, check out Gateway Cycle located near the Gateway Brown’s Creek Trail at 6028 Highway 36 in Oakdale.  Go exploring with this handy trail map.

Ice Skating (2)ICE SKATE
Maplewood maintains nine skating rinks throughout the city, four of which have supervised warming house shelters. For more information, visit our skating rinks page.