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water flowing over rocks

The View From the Ridge

October 15, 2018

By Peter Smerud

Peter Smerud serves as Wolf Ridge's Executive Director since 2011. He has been with Wolf Ridge since 1987, serving 24 years as a Naturalist and in a varied set of positions enabling him to have worked in nearly every aspect of operations. He loves the North Shore for it's unique combination of coastal, alpine-like, and northwoods environments.

September at Wolf Ridge is the start of our year.

Since we are a school, I imagine you’re not surprised by that way of viewing September. We welcomed 15 new students into our graduate naturalist training program. Here they learn to be effective educators, whether in a formal K-12 classroom or hiking with kids along the shoreline of a lake. Wolf Ridge program staff has finished getting the “kits” that hold the resources for our classes cleaned and ready for the coming year. The custodial and maintenance departments completed the scheduled cycle of waxing floors and grading the driveway. The farm crew is busy harvesting a plethora of veggies.

Reflecting on the past year, I feel a great deal of satisfaction. The summer of 2018 was fabulous. We had record numbers of attendance in camp programs, both youth, and family, and our grandparent/grandchild program tripled the attendance from last year. The new Girls Rock the Ridge Leadership camp was a hit. The amount of products produced by our organic farm continues to increase. We broke ground this summer at our Lake Superior land. We’ll soon have access and parking with shelter and basic resources. As both young and old guests explored our campus in accompaniment of a Wolf Ridge naturalist learning and appreciating the surrounding beauty, construction workers on the main campus were quickly disappearing.

We’ve been teaching among significant construction projects for more than 2 years.

The campus is slowly returning to a sense of calm, at least as much calm as a place with 300 children running around can be. In the spring of 2017, the Lakeview House, home to our student naturalists and seasonal staff, and the new maintenance building were complete. This May was the grand opening ceremony of the renovated and re-named Margaret A. Cargill Lodge. The construction has renewed our campus but more importantly, causes us to reflect on how we live and motivates us to make changes that in turn improve and protect the environment. Experiences here are transforming how people around the region are living, in more and more sustainable ways. Learning at Wolf Ridge has always been about connections, primarily to the natural world, but also to each other.

With a new year upon us, I need to say a heartfelt thank you for continuing to join us on this journey.

I know our Almanac is valued by the Wolf Ridge community for keeping you connected to what happens at this special place. YOU are a part of that community, which transforms people’s lives through learning experiences in the outdoors. The great success we’ve had so far with our Making Waves capital campaign has brought more new supporters to Wolf Ridge than any other endeavor of the past several decades. As I meet and get to know someone new to Wolf Ridge it reinforces that our story needs to be told over and over again.

Just today, a couple that dedicated their lives, more than 40 professional years, to environmental education in MN, visited me. They knew of Wolf Ridge, but yet, didn’t really know. We visited over lunch and I shared stories. They were blown away and had no idea the depth and breadth of the learning that occurs at Wolf Ridge. And so, as the leaves change, we begin to greet another year of schools, some of which have been coming for more than 45 years and as such, return here as old friends and some which are attending for the first time and will be building their own Wolf Ridge stories, connections, and learning. We invite you to share your Wolf Ridge story.

Before concluding, I’d like to take a moment to thank and recognize these recent $1000+ donors to our operations:

And to again thank the many donors to the Making Waves capital campaign.