As a kid growing up in Bloomington, Linda Radimecky spent most of her time outside riding bikes and climbing trees. Some of her favorite childhood memories were the long days she spent exploring the woods around her grandparents’ homestead in central Minnesota. By the time she reached college, she realized that these experiences helped build an unusually wide base of knowledge about the natural world.

She now has worked for 24 years as a naturalist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (Jay Cooke State Park, Fort Snelling and currently at Afton State Park). In that role, Radimecky has had the chance to share her love for the great outdoors with others. From introducing children to nature to teaching skills classes to women, she has played an integral role in the outdoor education of many Minnesotans.

In a recent interview, Radimecky, 50, talked about the reward associated with helping people find a connection with the outdoors and why it is important to harbor awe and respect for the natural world.

On becoming a naturalist

In college, I didn’t even know what a naturalist was. When we were told we could either do an internship or write a thesis, I got an internship at Wood Lake Nature Center (in Richfield). The second day, we had a group of preschoolers coming to learn about bees. The person in charge told me and my co-intern that it was our job to teach them, so we talked about bees and how they get their nectar and how they communicate. When I found out people did that for a living, I thought, that’s what I want to do. I still pinch myself and think, “I get paid to do this!”

On a typical day at work

Every day is different. Our role is to help people appreciate the outdoors and the environment, and how it all works together. If they appreciate it, then hopefully they will want to preserve it. When you share nature with someone for the first time, their eyes open wide and they are so enthusiastic. It’s just great.

On teaching classes in the DNR’s Becoming an Outdoors Woman program

It’s about getting women outside. If they didn’t have a mentor, they may not have learned those skills. Take hunting or fishing — guys will often know those secret spots to hunt or how to approach a landowner to get permission to cross private land or which streams have trout in them. Becoming an Outdoors Woman is a way to learn those things: hunting skills, shooting skills, trap shooting, fishing and archery. More and more women are getting interested. When I teach a fly-fishing class, it fills up. When I lead a women’s bike ride, it’s more popular than the general rides we offer. These classes give them a safe space to learn and a way to network and socialize with other women who want to do these things.

On her love of fly-fishing

The casting is beautiful — it’s not easy and takes a lot of practice. When you get a nice cast, it’s like, “That was it!” A lot of the time, you’re fishing in a stream and the current is taking your fly down. You’re constantly watching it as you stand in the cold water on a hot summer day. The birds are around you, the insects are coming off the water, you can see what’s hatching so you know what fly to put on — it just brings all those things together.

On why it is important to introduce children to the outdoors

What we don’t know, we fear. I don’t want kids to be fearful of the outdoors. I want them to feel like they are a part of it because we all are. We aren’t separate from it or above it. We are all connected and related.

 

Mackenzie Lobby Havey is a freelance writer. She lives in Minneapolis.