From Wolf Ridge’s Directors

March 22, 2020

Dear Wolf Ridge families, friends, supporters, and alumni,

It is with heavy hearts that we are reaching out to our Wolf Ridge community today. As leaders of this organization, we have been involved in the State response to COVID-19, working with Lake County Public Health and the Minnesota Department of Education. As you know, the health and safety of our schools, our staff, and our broader community continue to be our greatest concern.

While we move forward with plans for this summer’s youth and family camps and other programs, we have temporarily closed our campus to school students and strictly limiting access for all others until further notice.

Through environmental education, we teach adaptability and responsiveness to the world around us. You can never guarantee that mother nature is going to side with you–giving you a sunny day on that hike to Marshall Mountain. In spite of best efforts, sometimes there are situations out of our control like the student who gets stung while playing in the woods. One by one we respond to each incident and pat ourselves on the back for being always prepared. As naturalists, teachers, camp leaders we maintain the calm and keep the spirits high.

But how do we respond to this unprecedented global health crisis? We are reaching out to you in partnership and teamwork. With schools closed, most of us working from home, often with our kids in tow, it is a time like no other. We hear you, we feel it. We are living it too.

I am here to tell you that we can come together. We are trying to find ways to support our community, albeit remotely.  We are considering how to use our facilities to help the Lake County community as well as reach out to children, their parents, and teachers across Minnesota. We are exploring how through a digital presence, we can continue to help people connect to nature and its centering and healing qualities in these tough times. We are open to your thoughts as well.  We will be in touch over the coming days as we consider how we can help.

I am relieved to share with you that Wolf Ridge had anticipated and prepared for a massive disturbance although we never considered this scale. Fifteen years ago, after H1N1, Wolf Ridge began an emergency fund. We are tapping that fund now as we anticipate potentially losing nearly all of our schools and therefore nearly all income through the end of the school year. In spite of limited savings but without students, we have had to give staff two weeks of warning before layoffs. By March 30, all but essential maintenance and administrative employees will be tapping unemployment.  These are dire times.

In addition to being a strong educational partner, Wolf Ridge is also a strong economic driver of Lake County. We are saddened by the financial impact COVID-19 will have on our workers, the broader community, Minnesota, the U.S. and the world. At times like these, we see how connected we all are.

But, I truly believe that we can be stronger at the end of this than we were before it began. We have the opportunity to slow down, focus on our kids, connect with our own natural space whether back yard or on State trails which at this point remain open, though social distancing should be adhered to. Nature heals and brings calm.

From all of us at Wolf Ridge, we are thinking of you. We can’t wait to see you again on the Ridge. We will be in touch. In the meantime, take care of one another, be well, and keep us in your thoughts.

With love,

Pete and Shannon

P.S. If you have thoughts of how Wolf Ridge can support young learners and their parents/caregivers and teachers, please contact us at pete.smerud@wolf-ridge.org or shannon.walz@wolf-ridge.org