Westwood Hills Nature Center celebrates 40th anniversary

Growth brings happiness, comfort

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Lilia Gonzalez

A Westwood Hills Nature Center naturalist shows an audience emmber a snake during the live animal show Sept. 19. The Nature Center helf their 40th anniversary event Sunday.

Avery Stahl

After 40 years of offering services and events to the community,  the Westwood Hills Nature Center has gone through a lot and is loved by many. Nature Center manager Mark Oestreich said he is proud of all the nature center has accomplished. 

“To see the growth of this park over the last 40 years has been great. There’s been changes in the trail system, the docks, programs and, of course, the new building,” Oestreich said. “I’ve seen it change from a local little nature center to more of an area that serves beyond St. Louis Park.”

Despite the anniversary being June 7, Westwood Hills Nature Center celebrated Sept. 26 with an event at the new building. This event was delayed because of COVID-19. The new building opened in July 2021. It was designed as a teaching tool, allowing bigger and better programs, art shows, displays and better education. 

Sophomore and nature center volunteer Modesty Manion said she feels comforted and supported in Westwood’s group. She said she can connect with nature there in a good environment. 

I’ve seen it change from a local little nature center to more of an area that serves beyond St. Louis Park.”

— Mark Oestreich

“Westwood is a place of community. Everyone is so welcoming there,” Manion said. “It’s a place where you can be one with nature and learn about it in your community.”

Sophomore Jack Kottke said he went to camps and programs at the nature center since he was young. Now a volunteer at the nature center, Kottke loves it.

“It was a place where my family spent a lot of time. We went to the camps since we were really little,” Kottke said. “I really grew up going to their programs. Once I was old enough, I volunteered there. I think it’s an amazing place.”

Proud of the community he has built, Oestreich said he has seen staff form connections with each other and nature. 

“I’ve spent a lot of time here with the resources and staff. The core group of us have 30 plus years here together, so we’ve gone through a lot of stuff together,” Oestreich said. “The land here is incredible. It’s amazing to think we’re so close to downtown Minneapolis and can share this resource with everybody.”