Posts Tagged ‘Renville County Parks’

Posts Tagged ‘Renville County Parks’


August 24th, 2015

submitted by Jon Wogen, TBC Board member, and printed with permission from the Renville County Register

What if a young couple with children happened to stop in our town? And, what if they were thinking about moving back to a rural area from the big city to raise their kids here?

And, what if they stopped at the convenience store and found the bathrooms to be a mess? And what if the clerk behind the counter was a grump and didn’t seem to care whether he or she even liked their job, and not to mention people?

And, what if they wanted to spend a night or several days scouting out our towns as a potential new place to raise their kids? Could they locate a motel, hotel, or bed-and-breakfast without too much effort?

Could this young couple find parks easily? Are there direction signs available and visible to a newcomer?

Is our town friendly to riding bikes or walking around to see things? What kind of impression of our streets, stores, shops and restaurants is presented to the newcomers? Are there irresponsible dog owners who don’t pick up after the dog goes potty?

If a young family does find a park in our towns is there something for kids to do or play on? How about a picnic table where the newcomers or travelers can stop to eat their picnic lunch? Is there a bench in the park for the parents to sit on as they watch their kids unwinding from a trip in the car?

What if the parents of the other kids playing on the playground equipment are busy texting and talking while their own kids bully the newcomer’s kids? What if the texters/talkers never speak up to stop the bullying? Would this young family want to move to this town after this episode?

What if a young family looking for a new town to live in heard there was a swimming pool? Could they find info about it? Could they even find it or are there no signs about it? Could they locate a sign about open hours for public swimming? Is there a “kiosk” in a park where they could learn more about our town, including locations of important (to young families) places?

As the young family drives, walks, or bikes around the town they are looking at the houses and properties of the residents. Would there be well-kept lawns, flowers, and a well-kept house on each lot? What if there were junk cars, appliances, and junk of all kinds stacked up in some yards? Are the weeds pulled up around the houses instead of hiding the house from the street?

As travelers or possible new citizens to our towns drive into town, what kind of welcoming signs are there for them to see? Are the public service organizations listed at the entrance to our towns? Is the welcoming sign attractive and well-kept? Are there flowers around the welcome sign, or weeds?

As you can imagine, we could go on and on about first impression of our own towns. Discussing our town from a stranger’s perspective can be difficult and even embarrassing.

As you can see, everyone in our towns can be an ambassador for our towns. Imagine a stranger pulls up to where you are gardening or working in your yard. He or she asks where such and such a place is. Can you be helpful with that? We have seen where a home owner drove his or her own car and led the newcomer visitors to a church for a funeral in our town. That can convey a good impression about our town.

Going the extra mile really makes sense. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Helpful, friendly, cheerful, accommodating, nice, are just some of the words that can describe many of the people in our towns. Could there be more? Are you one of them?

Tatanka Bluffs Corridor, consisting of Redwood (16 towns) and Renville County (10 towns) should be an area that can make that first good impression on a stranger. Each of our 26 towns can plan, work, fix, plant, clean and be attractive to anyone who is looking for a super nice place to live.

We might consider becoming more familiar with some of the beautiful parts of our Counties too. Then, when we talk with strangers or possibly new members of our communities, we can share with them that there is more than those beautiful and green corn fields in our two counties. We have one of the most beautiful places in Minnesota. That is, of course the Minnesota River and its valley, plus the tributaries flowing into it. There are parks in both counties that hold many beautiful sights for folks to enjoy. The Minnesota River is the “zipper” that holds the two counties together.

We can make a list of all the things people would like about our town. Then we can make a list of what they might not like about it. Which list is longest? Can anything be done about any of those negative things about our towns?

Attitude is a biggie when we think about our Tatanka Bluffs Corridor area. Is our attitude that we don’t need any newcomers or boomerangers to come to our towns? Boomerangers are former students who might want to raise their kids where they can become “Free-Range Kids”. They want a safe and friendly place to raise their kids. A good attitude about our towns will make us think of the future of our towns. What would we like to see in the future? Will we still be a viable community in the future or will we just be hanging by a thread as we lose people and don’t gain any productive citizens anymore?

Becoming an ambassador for our towns is easy to do. Survival of our 26 communities is important to the future of our Counties. Can you help?


Sven says, “No matter how small and unimportant what we are doing may seem, if we do it well, it may soon become the step that will lead us to do better things.”


February 18th, 2015

By Jon Wogen, TBC Board member, printed with permission from the Renville County Register

Recreation for better health and education in the outdoors

In this column over the last two weeks, we have covered how our Renville County Towns use our web sites to promote our towns to prospective visitors. We have done self-exams of how our websites promote our towns and especially the parks and other amenities.

We have discussed briefly how retention and recruitment of people in our towns is vital to keep up our town’s stamina and growth. Our parks are a valuable asset to help retention and recruitment, as are our web sites.

Today we are going to discuss how our parks can be an asset for education and recreation and for betterment of our citizen’s health. As you know, getting people outdoors is a big reason for the existence of parks. But, education is another way our parks can “earn their keep” as they say.

Every town with a park can find something in this discussion that they can do in their parks. As before, Olivia, where I live offers nine parks for the people to enjoy. The following are things that can be done in Olivia’s parks and in the parks of your towns. The water aspects of park activities may not apply to all towns, but others will.

We can teach water quality and quantity, flood control, water conservation in our parks. Native prairie and wetland habitat can be studied. Wildflower identification is fun to do in the parks.

Insect life in our parks and their gardens can be studied. Life in a pond can be a study in itself.

Physical fitness through recreation is achieved in our parks. Basketball, tennis, walking trails, horseshoe courts, Frisbie golf, and kids’ playground equipment help here.

Fishing and “how to fish” can be taught. The making and using of fishing tackle can be done in a park shelter. Seniors can find a reason and a place for fishing right in town with a pond or creek flowing through it.

Outdoor cooking and outdoor survival tactics can be taught in parks. Conservation of all natural resources can be a project to work on in a park. Plant identification, pollinator conservation (bees and butterflies) can be taught in our parks and park gardens.

Canoe and kayak skills can be learned at the park with a pond. Winter survival and fire making woodcraft skills can be studied in our parks. Building emergency snow shelters can be learned here too. Snowshoeing and cross Country Skiing can go on in our parks.

Soil and soil conservation can be learned outdoors in our parks. Art in the parks can be a lot of fun. Teaching and learning outdoor painting can be done in parks. Outdoor photography can be a study in our parks any time of the year. Drying and pressing wild flowers is a great hobby and great for youth groups and can be done in our parks. Studying trees and leaves and forest management are good activities.

Meditation and relaxation go well in some parks with a fairly quiet area around them. Some parks may be able to provide a dirt-bike trail for serious riding. This is a great fitness opportunity. Walking and running on trails in our parks can be very pleasant and provides fitness.

Bringing seniors to our town’s parks for a picnic or if available, for fishing would be good for senior morale.

Gardening or landscaping for wildlife can be demonstrated in our parks. Nature crafts can be taught here. Building bird houses or bird feeders can be done in our park shelters.

Nature story time and reading can be held in our parks. Hunter Safety skills can be taught here. Archery basics can be taught in some parks. Making our own fishing jig fly and fishing techniques can be taught. Making fishing lures like spoons and plugs can be done as skills for the youthful fisherman. Crafts of all kinds and hands-on activities can work well in our parks.

Schools can plan outdoor conservation or environmental excursions to our town’s parks. Youth groups can take advantage of our town’s parks for all kinds of learning and adventures.

Now it is your turn. Begin to survey your parks and what can be done in them. Make plans and carry them out.

  • Do you have a parks and recreation board in your town? Should you have one?
  • Do you feel that parks are an amenity that can be a lure for people to come to your town?
  • Do you have a garden club in your town that can help with some demonstration gardens in your parks?
  • Would Master Gardeners like a role in your parks improvements?

Winter is a great time for planning and discussing the future of your parks. Enjoy the experience of surveying, planning, and improving, along with educational ideas for your parks. Now is the time.


Sven is very interested in economic development of our County and Towns. He suggests that, “If you are going to do something, make it matter; Do what you can with what you have, where you are and don’t chase your productive citizen away.”


January 21st, 2015

By Jon Wogen, TBC Board member – printed with permission by the Renville County Register

Most of us have had encounters with the mysterious and wonderful owls. As kids we called Screech Owls closer to us. We admired the Great Horned Owl sitting in a tree as we walked around and around it trying to screw its head off. That didn’t work well as we didn’t notice that the owls would snap its head around to focus on us once again.

We related to you some time ago that we had that close encounter with a Great Gray Owl while deer hunting in the north woods. Dressed in orange clothing and sitting quietly in the deer stand, we suddenly felt a presence above us. We lifted our eyes to suddenly meet the eyes of the Great Gray Owl staring down at us. In a few seconds the huge bird left as quietly as it came into my tree. A couple of minutes later, a chickadee came and landed on the bill of my orange cap. Seems that bird watchers might not need the camouflage we usually wear.

Yes, owls are mysterious and a very interesting part of Creation. The sinister look on their faces is awesome. They always look so serious. Type “A” personalities seem to abound among the owls.

Some folks who don’t like owls just can’t understand why owls are protected by law. But we who know what they can do for us understand that killing and eating gobs of rodents earns the owl a special place in our lives. The eating of rodents like mice, voles and rats helps to preserve crops, and stored food.

Owls also help to manage numbers of other wildlife. In other words, owls may be very good in nature’s scheme that requires some balance of all of its participants.

Owl conservation can be forwarded by us. Making a nesting box for Screech Owls and Barred Owls is one way to help them. If you live where there is a wood lot and windbreak trees, you can allow a dead tree to stand with its rotten holes and openings. Owls will love you for those standing in your grove.

Another way for you to help owls to survive is to be careful with rodent poisons. A mouse sick form eating your poison is very easily caught by an owl. The poison in the rodent gets into the owl and may kill it. The same goes for insecticides. Small owls eat a lot of insects and if those are carrying poison, they may harm the owls.

Cat lovers who allow their pets to run loose may be harming the population of owls, especially those that are the smaller species. Cats can also kill the baby owls that may be sitting on the ground or a low branch of a tree. Dogs also can be a problem when running free. They can and do kill owls they can catch.

When we lived on the farm, we had piles of old barbed wire in the grove. Some was in rolls and others were more loosely-coiled and lying around in the grove. If a mouse were attacked near or in a coil of barbed wire, the owl could become tangled up and would die in the wire. You might check for this in your grove. Cleaning up the grove of this kind of stuff can help the birds to avoid being hung up and trapped.

If you see a baby owl on the ground in the spring, it is best left in place unless dogs or cats are prowling the area. If dogs and cats, or maybe kids are around, you can use leather gloves and place the owl in a branch of a tree where it might be safe.

All land owners should at least think about what they do or do not have for habitat for all kinds of wildlife. A thick grove stops wind and snow and provides a place for birds like owls. A scant grove with mowed grass among the trees provides little for wild things.

One of my heroes from a long time ago is Teddy Roosevelt. He said, “Do what you can with what you have where you are”. If you own property, you can help wild things to live on it. Even people living in town can plant more trees or shrubs and provide more habitat for wild things. These creatures share the Earth with us. They deserve some habitat to live in. We also benefit from having the wild creatures among us. They provide inspiration and are just plain fun to observe.

If you are fortunate to live on a farm where Great Horned Owls thrive, try to locate a tree that the owls roost in. Then, look on the snow or ground below where the owls roost. Locate the furry “pellets” that owls barf up after they have digested the rodents they have eaten. Yes, owls don’t pass fur, bones and teeth like other critters. After digestion, the owls burp up the hairy mass and it drops to the ground. You can take one of these pellets and dissect it. You will find small rodent bones among the hair. There will be jaws, teeth and maybe a whole skull to see there in the hair. If you know how to identify a skull, you can actually tell just what sort of mouse, vole, lemming, or other small mammal it is. It could even be a shrew. We have found shrew skulls in owl pellets.

Consider the wild things and their needs. And, then act.


Believe it or not, there is an owl festival right here in Minnesota. It is in Houston, a southeast Minnesota town. Two websites can help you to learn more about owls and to get information about this festival which this year starts on Friday, March 16 and runs through the weekend. If you like owls you might want to go there that weekend.

You might want to check out the article on the Great Gray Owl in Bird Watcher’s Digest (Nov.-Dec. 2014 issue).

Birds and Blooms Magazine (Oct.-Nov. 2014) has a nice article about owls too. The cover of this magazine shows a wonderfully beautiful Saw-Whet Owl. There are many nice photos of the owls for you to enjoy too.


Today SVEN quotes Thomas Jefferson, his favorite President: “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical.” (1786)


January 14th, 2015

By Jon Wogen, “used by permission of the Renville County Register”.

Screech Owl

The Screech Owl is one of those that can live with people the best. Many years ago I awoke one morning to hear funny noises and “whining” out on my balcony. I went to the window and looked out at four baby Screech Owls and their parents sitting on the railing of the balcony. That was really cool to see and hear.

Since that time, most old trees around the area have been cut down. Most of them were elms that had started to die and rot, providing many nesting possibilities for the small owls. The owls have not returned since all of those trees were lost.

But, we have a cure for the missing dead hollow trees. A Screech Owl nesting box can be placed by you in your healthy trees to mimic a hollow dead tree for those owls. We just may get some of them to come back into town for our entertainment.

There is a plan attached to this column that is easily built. It can be cut out from a single 1inch by 10 inch board eight feet long. There is little waste when done this way.

Most plans for this type of nest box show a hinged roof for clean out. I prefer a hinged side to open for clean out. The side-opening makes it easier for you to reach from a ladder for cleaning the nest box. You don’t have to climb quite so high with this style. One should put at least two inches of wood chips (not sawdust) in the bottom of the Screech Owl nest box. Cleaning the box each year helps to prevent disease and parasites that can harm the baby birds.

Cut a three inch opening centered about 11 and-a-half inches above the bottom of the front board. Inside the front board, below the opening, a piece of steel hardware cloth about three inches or so wide should be stapled on. It should extend to a couple of inches off bottom. This will aid in the baby owls being able to climb out of the box when the time arrives for them to leave the nest.

There should be a couple of half inch holes drilled in the sides to allow heat to escape the nest box in hot weather. Air flow will also help to dry the box out. There should be four half inch holes in the corners of the bottom board also, for drainage, if driven rain gets into the box. It also provides for ventilation to dry out wet bedding so molds and things don’t grow there.

It is not a bad idea to rough up the area below the hole so the owls claws can grab the wood better. No perches are necessary and those things often attract more pest birds than good ones.

You may find that screws are better for building bird nest boxes as the wood warps and moves when wet and then dries out. That can pull nails out of the wood so the house gets weaker and can fall apart. We use drywall screws of proper length to get a good grip on the wood it is screwed into.

Lug screws can be used to hold the nest box in the tree. A pilot hole for the lag screws can be drilled into the tree to make it easier to screw into the wood.

Be very careful in hanging the Screech Owl nest box in the tree. You should be above the ten foot height and above 15 feet is even better. That is a long way to fall off a ladder. We value our readers so don’t want anyone to get hurt trying to help our native owls. Two hands need to be used to hold the house in place and to place the lug screws in to hold it up there. Maybe a belt attached to the ladder is not a bad idea. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get a bucket lift truck to help you to go up into the tree?

Once placed in the tree the fun begins. Observing the nest box over time will be rewarding and frustrating at times. Some “bad species” may try to nest in the box. Starlings love hole nesting sites. You may have to go up the ladder several times to eliminate nests of undesirable birds. This bird house will attract the Saw-Whet owl and the Kestrel (sparrow hawk) also. Both of them will be desirable to have in your yard. But, you certainly don’t want to provide a nesting site for starlings.

If you get lucky and get owls, you will have a thrill just watching the events going on there. Have a notebook handy and document the events going on up there in the tree and the bird behaviour that happens there.

This could be a wonderful project for 4-H, Girl and Boy Scouts, and Church Youth Groups, or just a good old fashioned nature lover.Screech Owl Bird House


Sven quotes President Ronald Reagan again today: “Government’s first duty is to protect people, not run their lives.”