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Riverside Learning

Staff photo by Fritz Busch Ella Nachreiner of New Ulm pets a stuffed beaver at the Riverside Environmental Learning Center in Riverside Park Sunday afternoon. A steady stream of adults and children viewed animal displays and other attractions at the free public event.

NEW ULM — After months of being closed to the public, the Riverside Environmental Learning Center in German Park opened to visitors Sunday afternoon.

Lori Wengert of New Ulm invited people to stop in and view bison displays. Children were encouraged to make a tee pee. Wengert provided snacks and juice.

“A steady stream of people came out,” Wengert said Sunday.

The mission of the facility is to provide a hands-on experience for all visitors, with an emphasis on exposing young people to nearby natural history.

Learning Center curator Ron Bolduan, who received the 2019 Roger J. Wolfe Achievement Award from the Minnesota Valley Action Council, was among the visitors. The award goes to someone who symbolizes the ideals that Wolfe represented including contributing time and energy towards improving the lives of others.

A nature photographer, Bolduan has introduced many adults and children to the wonders of area nature with presentations at the learning center and in school programs.

When the former Franklin School in Riverside Park was converted to the Riverside History and Nature Learning Center in 2010, Bolduan brought his sizable collection of nature artifacts to the building.

Brenda Longworth, who was among those that nominated Bolduan for the award quoted him.

“My goal is to make people more aware of the Minnesota River, which is right in the heart of Minnesota. Once (people) appreciate what they have, they are going to work hard to maintain and preserve it.”

Bolduan has often shared his wildlife photos taken during a 20-year photo study of the Minnesota and Cottonwood River Valleys. A Power Point program focuses on river valley creatures and the importance of habitat in their lives.

Audience participation at Bolduan’s presentations that have includes traveling to the Fort Ridgely State Park State Historic Site, include identifying wildlife, identifying their tracks and locating wildlife.

In addition, Bolduan helped organize a youth program called River Rangers.

The group that recognizes and awards youth who participate in in-field environmental learning and environmental cleanup. At least one project must be completed independently by students.

Bolduan has taken students on his annual mussel surveys, which indicate river health and on river hikes to identify animal tracks and to sandbars to search for shells and fossils.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.

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