The Dodge Nature Center, located in the heart of West St. Paul and Mendota Heights, was one of the first natural area protection efforts in Dakota County and one of the first nature centers in the state of Minnesota.
Dakota County acquired a 156-acre permanent conservation easement on the Rachel C. Lilly Preserve property south of Highway 110 in Mendota Heights in May 2008. The easement on this portion of the Dodge Nature Center property restricts all development except for a possible future visitor center and provides for public access authorized by the Dodge Nature Center.
Dodge Nature Center provides a diverse landscape to explore, including prairies, hardwood forests, a 30-acre lake, wetlands, hiking trails, a working farm, an orchard and a bee apiary. This varied landscape provides outdoor classrooms for more than 50 different curriculum topics for visiting school and community education groups.
The property is a key link in the northern Dakota County Greenway that has the potential to tie Pine Bend Bluffs and Lebanon Hills Regional Park together with the Mississippi River in Lilydale.
By maintaining the open space characteristics of the land, the natural vegetation will protect water quality and minimize peak discharge of urban runoff.
But perhaps most importantly, Dodge Nature Center provides an opportunity for thousands of people to become more aware, informed and committed to natural resource protection and environmental stewardship. Dodge Nature Center is open to the public seven days a week, and its six miles of trails are open to hiking from sunrise to sunset.