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Smack dab in the middle of bustling, suburban Woodbury, the Tamarack Nature Preserve is a hidden gem with rare plants and abundant wildlife. The 169-acre park contains the southern-most tamarack swamp in Minnesota, as well as quiet trails and a unique floating boardwalk, which was recently upgraded and replaced by the city of Woodbury. Next week, community volunteers are planning a virtual tour with self-guided activities to celebrate the re-opening of the preserve and encourage people to explore and enjoy this special place.

The rich fen within Tamarack Nature Preserve has layers of peat at least one-foot thick that float on top of water beneath, creating a quaking forest that is impossible to walk across (hence the need for a floating boardwalk). Peat forms when plants and trees in waterlogged areas die and only partially decompose, leaving layers of rich material that build up and compact over time. Peat accumulates slowly – only 1 mm per year – so a layer that is one foot deep required at least 300 years to form.

The signature species in the preserve is the tamarack tree. These are a unique type of conifer, common in northern Minnesota, with needles that turn gold and drop in the fall like a deciduous tree. They thrive in acidic, nutrient-poor wetlands, peaty lakeshores, and along boggy edges of streams; can live to be more than 300 years old; and were documented to be the most common type of tree in Minnesota at the time of European settlement. The Tamarack Nature Preserve is also home to dozens of special plants including swamp milkweed, marsh marigold, arrowhead, blue-joint grass, boneset, bottlebrush sedge, woolgrass, and sensitive fern.

“Adopt-A-Park” volunteers Dana Boyle and Stephanie Wang live near Tamarack Nature Preserve and have been working with the city and the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District to make the park more accessible to visitors and residents. They’ve created a website www.tamaracknaturepreserve.org with stunning plant and landscape photos from every season, as well as fly-over videos filmed with a drone. A new virtual tour of the preserve https://poly.google.com/view/evVmDP1k5f4 includes historical photos, video, and maps as well. The volunteers have also been working with the city to create a new map of the preserve, as well as wayfinding and interpretive signs.

During next weekend’s reopening celebration, the community is invited to walk the trails at Tamarack Nature Preserve and participate in a water pollution mystery game.

Trail highlights include the 1.8-mile Preserve Trail, 1.4-mile Floodplain Forest Trail, 600-foot Sedge Boardwalk, and 780-foot Fen Boardwalk. Interpretive signs will be placed along the trails and visitors can also download and use the eBird and iNaturalist apps to look for some of the 295 plant and animals species recorded on site. Search for clues to solve the water pollution mystery anytime on Friday, Oct. 16 – to Sunday, Oct. 18. More details at www.mnwcd.org/campclue.

To learn more:

• In eBird, look for hotspot L2117321.

• In iNaturalist, look for the “Tamarack Nature Preserve in Woodbury, Minnesota” project.

• For info on water quality improvement and protection effort – www.rwmwd.org,

Angie Hong is an educator for East Metro Water - www.mnwcd.org/emwrep - which has 25 local government partners. Follow her outdoor adventures on YouTube at @Angie Hong MN Nature Mom. Contact her at 651-330-8220 extension 35 or angie.hong@mnwcd.org.

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