When my children were young, they attended summer classes at Lee and Rose Warner Nature Center near our home in Scandia, Minnesota. More than once while dropping them off, I heard comments from kids who had ridden the bus from St. Paul.

“Why do we have to come all the way out in the sticks?” they complained. As people who chose to live “out in the sticks,” we found this kind of baffling. And sad.

Now that the announcement has been made to close Warner, (there was a recent story in your newspaper about it,) I find myself thinking about the value of “the sticks” those kids thought were so far from and irrelevant to their lives. In their habitat of city streets and concrete, they hadn’t yet learned about the diversity, water, oxygen, and just plain beauty those sticks provide, and worse, they might have been a little bit afraid of them.

I remember a class that was a favorite of my sons: Turtles, Toads and their Kin. The title is pretty self explanatory, but one type of turtle was especially intriguing.

The Blanding’s Turtle was getting increasingly rare and it was beautiful—it looked like a cross between E.T. and a fancy suitcase. The class was the time of year when turtles lay their eggs on roadsides and there was discussion of whether drivers knew about this and avoided turtles or if some might hit them on purpose. The kids were concerned for the Blanding’s safety, so they build a model of it—attached a long string—and put it out on the road by Warner as they hid in the woods to watch.

Some drivers swerved and some seemed to aim for it. Others stopped and tried to help the turtle, only to be surprise when they realized it was an experiment. This was science education at its best, right out in the middle of “the sticks.”

I’m so sorry for the closing of Warner and hope that some angels who appreciate its value find a way to save it, especially at this time of climate crisis.

Lori Powell Gordon

Scandia, MN 

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