Wood Lake Nature Center welcomes new manager
A never before seen mammal is calling the Wood Lake Nature Center home since January 6. It just so happens that the mammal is also the nature center’s new manager, Paul Smithson.
A love of summer camp made Smithson consider working outdoors and engaging with nature. While forestry didn’t feel like a good fit, the Environmental Education program at the University of Wisconsin at Steven’s Point was is where he found his niche.
Prior to coming to Richfield, Smithson had spent the past fifteen years of his career as a naturalist at the Warner Nature Center in Marine on the St. Croix. Smithson has also worked at a nature center in Rochester, working with the City of Edmonton, Canada in historical interpretation, as well as plenty of seasonal environmental education positions.
Smithson’s new role in managing Wood Lake Nature Center will have him overseeing a robust environmental education schedule, as well as the 150-acre nature center grounds.
“Paul has a wealth of natural history knowledge and passion for environmental education,” acknowledged Recreation Services Director Amy Markle. “He has strong leadership skills and a desire to bring the nature center to the next level, continuing to grow it as a vital regional asset.”
When thinking about his first year on the job here in Richfield, Smithson is hopeful.
“I hope we have a smooth year without any weather-related complications because I am eager to take part in a full year’s worth of seasonal programming,” remarked Smithson. “The staff brings a tremendous amount of experience and energy to their work and I am looking forward to learning from them.”
One project Smithson is specifically enthusiastic about is the reconstruction of Wood Lake’s iconic boardwalk.
“I’m excited to get the boardwalk repaired and back in service for the community. I haven’t actually crossed it yet, so I’m looking forward to the day when I can eventually do that,” asserted Smithson.
Smithson also brings a bird-banding permit with him to Wood Lake. The permit, one of only about 2,000 in the county, allows Smithson to identify birds and place an identification band on their leg. Those identification bands allow birders to track the migratory and behavioral patterns of birds in their region.
The data collected supports research efforts across the country around avian biology. Eventually, Wood Lake Nature Center will be able to use the permit with a specific research-focus fit for Richfield’s environment.
For now, Smithson is enjoying getting to know the nature center and the people who frequent it.
“The nature center is obviously one of the city’s gems and I’m happy to be working alongside all the residents and staff that love it so much,” stated Smithson.