Dan Bell
Lynx Writer

Minnesota Lynx and Timberwolves employees and season ticket holders recently spent an afternoon working on various projects to beautify Anoka County's Wargo Nature Center.

In conjunction with HandsOn Twins Cities, an organization that specializes in finding and managing volunteer opportunities, the Timberwolves FastBreak Foundation helped organize the event that saw approximately 100 volunteers cheerfully give of their time on a crisp autumn day. The event was part of the FastBreak Foundation's October "New Season, New Beginnings" programming in which the Foundation strives to create/revitalize learning areas for Minnesota's youth.

Following lunch at Target Center, the volunteers loaded two busses to make the trip to Lino Lakes. The Joseph E. Wargo Nature Center encompasses 5,000 acres in Lino Lakes and is part of the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Regional Park Preserve. The park serves more than 400,000 visitors and offers educational programming to the public.

Prior to the work commencing, several speakers addressed the volunteers regarding that day's activities. Included among the speakers were Rhonda Sivarajah, Chair of the Anoka County Board of Commissioners; John VonDeLinde, Anoka County Park and Recreation Director; and Chris Wright, Timberwolves/Lynx President. Both Sivarajah and VonDeLinde stressed the importance of volunteers in maintaining and improving the Anoka County parks.

"One of the things that we really thrive on within our county park system is taking a combination of the partnerships that we have, volunteers as well as grants and other dollars that we receive from foundations, in order to help us do our work and reach the greater community," Sivarajah said. "By having volunteers come out here it really helps to stretch those dollars. Having the size of the group that we have here today is very significant. It allows us to accomplish the work that needs to be done in a short period of time and with limited resources."

"Volunteerism, partners, donations and grants are the backbone of what keeps our park system afloat and allows us to make improvements and maintain these great facilities," VonDeLinde said. "You are here today representing one of the biggest groups of volunteers we’ve seen in a long time. You are the people that make it happen and we can’t thank you enough for what you are doing today."

The projects for the day included renovating interpretive hiking trails, picking up litter along Rice Creek, collecting seeds for prairie restoration and providing additional site beautification.

Two groups of volunteers grabbed rakes and shovels and helped spread mulch on several of the Wargo Nature Center's hiking trails to improve the look of the trails and prevent them from being overrun with vegetation. Another group ventured out to the creek and lakes area and picked up the trash that had accumulated on the banks and surrounding areas. A third contingency hiked out the Center's 14-acre prairie area to collect seeds. These seeds will be used for prairie restoration projects in other Anoka County parks. Another group built some forts out of logs and branches in the nature play area.

Making the day even more special for the Minnesota/Lynx organization was the presence of a group of season ticket holders who volunteered their time.

"The neat thing about having season ticket holders out here is that they see us in a completely different environment than they would normally see us in," Wright said. "Our relationship with them is usually transactional in terms of our business operation. Today it gave us an opportunity to mingle with them on a major community event and let them see a different part of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx organization."

After the projects were completed and some of Wargo Nature Center's delicious apple cider had been consumed, the Timberwolves/Lynx volunteers headed back to Minneapolis, knowing that they helped do their part to preserve this nature wonderland as a valuable learning and recreational resource for the Twin Cities area.
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