Minnesota nature center expanding across river with campus near Hudson

Carpenter Nature Center plans visitor center, trails, and more on 300 blufftop acres of upland forest and prairie.




4 minute read

Via Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center:

With the presentation of a $500,000 check from the Al and Laurie Hein Trust, Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center announced the final stage of a $3.5 million capital campaign to build a visitor center on 300 acres of Carpenter Nature Center land south of Hudson.

The 5,000 square foot visitor center will be built in the wooded area of the property south of South Cove Road and northwest of the Troy Burne Golf Course development. The eco-friendly building will include exhibits, classrooms, community meeting space, a reading nook, restrooms, and seating area with natural prairie and wildlife viewing opportunities.

The project includes outdoor teaching areas, a small pavilion on the north property, and upgrades and expansion of the existing 10-miles of trail system. This includes a portion of paved trail near the building to ensure accessibility for all. 

The building will be staffed during day and will further Carpenter Nature Center’s mission to foster a lifelong appreciation of the natural world through environmental education, habitat conservation and outdoor experiences.

Carpenter Nature Center’s Minnesota campus, on the St. Croix River across from Prescott, has operated as a nature center since its establishment in 1981 by the Thomas E. and Edna D. Carpenter Foundation. Carpenter annually hosts more than 20,000 visitors and provides school-age programs for nearly 10,000 children and a wide variety of adult programs.

In Wisconsin, Carpenter executed a conservation easement with Troy Township and a Stewardship contract with the Wisconsin DNR on virtually all of its 300 acres. This permanently protects it from development, maintains this natural habitat, and ensures it is perpetually available to the public. 

A recently-completed Council Ring, informal gathering and teaching area, at Carpenter’s Wisconsin campus. (Greg Seitz/St. Croix 360)

“As we embark on the public part of our campaign, we are pleased to share our plans and solicit support from the community at large,” said CNC Treasurer Jim Freund, who is chairing the capital campaign. “Our staff and campaign committee members are happy to make presentations to civic groups, neighborhood meetings, and interested individuals to share information and answer questions about the building plans.”

While planning for a facility on the Wisconsin campus began in early 2005, momentum was gained in 2010 when Jack Greenwald, administrator of the Al and Laurie Hein Trust, pledged $500,000 from the trust, conditioned on receiving enough additional contributions to assure that the project would proceed. John and Ruth Huss, former owners of The First National Bank, now Associated Bank in Hudson, contributed an additional $250,000. The fund drive stalled during the 2008 recession and its lingering effects.

The fundraising effort was renewed with a generous $1 million gift from the Fred C. and Katherine B. Andersen Foundation earlier this year that assured that the project would proceed.

An eastern meadowlark perched on a trail sign at Carpenter’s Wisconsin Campus. (Greg Seitz/St. Croix 360)

Present and past CNC board members have contributed to the effort, with five and six-figure gifts, and several area foundations and businesses have made gifts of cash and in-kind services, bringing the total raised so far to more than $2.3 million. 

The Hein name has been associated with Carpenter’s Wisconsin property since 1988 when Laurie Hein donated 98 acres of mostly wooded land to the nature center after her husband Al passed away. Her gift included $250,000 in cash to endow the maintenance of the property and care for the animals. The late Dan Greenwald, a neighbor and close friend of the Heins and CNC board member, facilitated the gift.

When Laurie Hein died, Greenwald became administrator of the trust. In 1990, he used $250,000 from the trust to purchase an adjoining 77 acres of farmland and donated it to CNC, which then turned it into prairie. In 1998, when the owner of an adjacent 116-acre farm announced plans to develop a housing subdivision, neighbors in the area organized an effort to purchase the farm for $1 million.

A shady spot to sit. (Greg Seitz/St. Croix 360)

Greenwald contributed another $250,000 from the trust, the neighbors raised about $230,000, three lots on the northwest corner of the farm were sold for $250,000 and CNC was awarded a $200,000 Knowles Nelson Stewardship Grant. The remaining $70,000 was eventually provided by Carpenter, which became owner of the land. The 10-acre farmstead with the farmhouse and outbuildings was purchased at a sheriff’s sale in 2008, bringing Carpenter’s total property in Wisconsin to 300 acres.

Building plans have been drawn, contractors are being hired and preliminary site preparation for the driveway and building site are underway.

“We hope to complete our fundraising over the winter months with a groundbreaking planned for next spring,” said Freund.

The facility is expected to be open in the fall of 2021. 

For more information or to contribute to the capital campaign, contact Carpenter Nature Center Executive Director Jen Veith at 651-437-4359 or Treasurer Jim Freund at 715-781-1349 and visit: carpenternaturecenter.org/wisconsin/.


One response to “Minnesota nature center expanding across river with campus near Hudson”

  1. […] A $3.5 million project to build a new nature center on protected land in western Wisconsin has entered its final stage, as reported by St. Croix 360. […]


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Minnesota nature center expanding across river with campus near Hudson