The opening of a new Nordic Center and lighted ski trails at the Lake Elmo Park Reserve was formally celebrated last week by County Board members and other officials.

The Nordic Center serves as a trail head for the ski trails on which LED lights were installed in the fall of 2011. The newly lighted ski area is laid out with several interconnected "loop" trails, offering skiers multiple unique distances, difficulties and scenic trail options. The LED lights are mounted to poles four to five feet above the ground, and the hooded fixtures are focused and aimed down the trail corridors to minimize light escaping into the night sky.

The Nordic Center was built near the park's primitive campground parking lot and opened for use last fall. The building has amenities for skiers, such as restroom and changing rooms, a warming area and vending machines. Skiers are able to use the Nordic Center to change before or after skiing and warm up between traversing trails.

The $1.3 million project was funded through a Park and Trail Fund grant, which is part of the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment, and Metropolitan grants. No county property tax levy funds were used.


Dust Bowl author to visit library

Norma Welty, 87, a Maplewood author who chronicled her experience of living through the Dust Bowl of the 1930s in a novel, will talk about her life and how she came to write the book at Lake Elmo Public Library at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

"The Dirty Days" is a story based on her experiences growing up in the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma during the Depression. The story is about one of the most challenging times in the history of the United States as seen through the eyes of a girl. Welty fictionalized her experience, but she lived through it and in this historical tale, based on true events, a girl embarks on a coming-of-age journey where she and her loved ones must fight to survive the Great Depression and the Oklahoma Dust Bowl.

She says her story is not just about the pain and suffering. "There are moments of humor and tenderness that reveal our human capacity to find hope, even happiness amid all the tragedy. My story celebrates and acknowledges the strength and endurance of a generation of adults and children who battled the elements at a desperate time and prevailed through pure grit, hope and determination."

Welty came to her craft later in life and, she says, "In some ways, I have a history of being a late bloomer." She did not attend college until she was 40, but then earned bachelor's and master's degrees and taught English for 21 years. She received her first computer at age 80.

Snowshoe lessons taught into February

Snowshoe lessons will be offered throughout the winter to Washington County Park visitors at Lake Elmo Park Reserve.

An instructor from Warner Nature Center will be on hand to help participants trek through the snow. Participants will learn the basics of the ancient art of snowshoeing as they explore off-trail areas and search for wildlife.

Available snowshoe lesson times are 1-2:15 p.m. on Jan. 20, Feb. 3 and Feb. 24.

Warner Nature Center will provide the snowshoes. Participants are required to wear boots. Cost is $5 per person; participants must be 9 years old or older. Registration is required because class size is limited. Call the Lake Elmo contact station at 651-430-8370. 

This program meets at the previous ski shelter building near the main trailhead parking lot. Lake Elmo Park Reserve is at the intersection of County Road 19 and County Road 10, one mile north of Interstate 94 in Lake Elmo.

Alaska dog sledding adventures featured

Tales of courage and adventure as told by the man who made it happen will be featured at Lake Elmo Park Reserve's new Nordic Center 4-6 p.m. Saturday at "Alaska Dog Sled Adventure Story with Jim Ryder."

Ryder, a Wisconsin native, journeyed solo by dog team 800 miles from Nenana to Nome, Alaska, in early 2011, following the route of the sled-dog relay that carried diphtheria antitoxin to Nome in 1925. Ryder will share stories and photographs and display much of his gear, as well as discuss his preparation including dog training.

This program is appropriate for all ages and free with a valid vehicle permit ($5/day or $25/annual). Permits can be purchased at the park contact station. Parking is available in the lot just outside the Nordic Center and across the street at the main trailhead lot.

Lake Elmo Park Reserve is at the intersection of County Road 19 and County Road 10 one mile north of Interstate 94 in Lake Elmo.

For program information, trail maps and directions, see


Singer Charlie Maguire performing at library

Folk singer Charlie Maguire will offer a free program at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2, at the Park Grove Library, 7900 Hemingway Av. S., Cottage Grove.

Maguire sings and writes songs about Minnesota. He has paired up with Jason Davis for the past 20 years supplying the music for his series "On the Road" and is the composer of two musicals for the History Theatre in St. Paul. Maguire also appeared regularly on Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion."

No registration is required. Call Park Grove Library with questions at 651-459-2040.


Race day planned at state park

The 42nd annual Marine/O'Brien Cross-Country Ski race takes place on Sunday, Jan. 27, at William O'Brien State Park, 16821 O'Brien Trail N., Marine on St. Croix.

Adult registration starts at 9 a.m., with adult races starting at 10:30 a.m. The children's registration starts at 11 a.m., with children's races starting at 1 p.m. There will be a wooden ski tour that starts off the event. All abilities are welcome to participate.

For more information, e-mail Everett Myers at, or call 651-433-0500.