• 18°

Changing seasons at the Nature Center

The grounds at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center were still a bit soggy last weekend as my wife and I traversed the trails on our walk to the tower and back, but even with traces of snow and frozen ground evident on the north side of sheltered areas, we could sense the changing of the seasons through the sounds emitted by the waking frogs and returning birds and the visual hints of green peeking through the sleeping grass and on the tips of tree branches. It was and is a great time to take in nature, thus all who are not symptomatic are still encouraged to get out and enjoy Austin’s parks and the Nature Center. Please be respectful of others by practicing your physical distancing and be respectful of Nature Center rules by not bringing your bikes or pets onto the Nature Center grounds. Also, if you happen to bring in food or drinks, please remember to take out any related garbage. Thank you!

Red Cross Blood Drive

The Nature Center will be hosting a blood drive for American Red Cross on Monday, April 13. Please call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit RedCrossBlood.org and enter “Hormel NC” to schedule an appointment. Times range from 1-6 p.m. The American Red Cross is in dire need of donors and blood with a lot of blood drives being cancelled lately. This will be held in the Ruby Rupner Auditorium. The American Red Cross team is taking all precautions necessary to have a safe, healthy, and successful drive. Please consider coming out and donating. Every person who donates is eligible for a $5 amazon gift card and will also take home a bottle of the Nature Center’s fresh maple syrup!

Park care continues

The parks crews are cleaning up parks and similar properties, knowing that more extensive park care, in the form of mowing and trimming, is just around the corner. Restrooms at the parks are not yet opened and likely will not be until later in the year. As a reminder, the Park and Rec office is accepting reservations for parks pavilions later in the season, but not for anything in the next few weeks. Could you and your household family still go out and use a pavilion without a reservation? You likely could, but others may question and officials may investigate if it appears to be a social gathering of people who do not live in your same household.

Some public places open

At this time, the City’s playgrounds, the skateboard park, the off-leash dog park, athletic fields and courts, and disc golf courses will be open and available to the public. Volleyball and soccer nets will not be installed, nor will bases, and athletic fields will not be striped or marked. The parks’ restrooms will not be opened until a later date. Please note that park staff is not able to clean/sanitize all playground equipment following each use, so common sense should dictate when considering allowing your children to use such. Remember to practice physical distancing guidelines and all other recommended sanitation protocol, and if you are displaying any COVID-19 symptoms, please stay home.

Summer programs up in the air

We’re still hopeful of being able to offer some semblance of summer activities, but we, like many others, are in a holding pattern. We’ve delayed registrations for summer activities and will make a judgement call in several weeks based upon recommendations from the CDC as to what we can do with programs and activities at that time. Thus, we are still accepting online applications for all seasonal positions, but are not yet hiring.

Work at Todd Park

Area residents will see some work taking place in south Todd Park a little later this year as a sewer line to/from South Todd Complex and Izaak Walton Cabin to 21st Avenue Northeast gets installed. At present, there are septic tanks that serve the complex and Ike’s Cabin. These will both be plumbed into the municipal sanitary sewer system, resulting in the elimination of septic tanks at these sites. The work should last no more than several days once it begins.

Also, many are familiar with the bike trail bridge (and trail approach) over Wolf Creek in the center of Todd Park, which has been damaged by flooding in recent years. The current old bridge is slated to be removed and replaced with a new bridge (which will be less prone to clogging) and the attached trail leading to the bridge will be repaired. Also, the nearby disc golf tee pad (now lying partially in Wolf Creek) will be replaced but (likely) not in the exact same location.

What about the rainbow trout that were to be stocked in Wolf Creek within Todd Park? Will that still happen? We’ve heard that likely it will, but without the public fanfare. I guess we might find out for sure weeks down the road if someone is talking on social media about having caught trout in Todd Park. Remember: The trout season dates will still apply and fishing licenses will still be required.

No Arbor Day tree planting ceremony

For the first time in 40 years, we will not be holding a tree planting ceremony on Arbor Day in late April. The Arbor Day Foundation has given all participating communities a reprieve from the annual ceremony (due to COVID-19 concerns) and will allow for alternate activities later in the season to maintain the “Tree City” status.

On another sad note, Emerald Ash Borer has now made its way into Mower County, so the Minnesota Department of Agriculture has enacted an emergency quarantine to limit the movement of firewood and ash material out of the county.