Backyard Getaways: Nature Surrounds Golden Valley’s 45th Parallel Marker
The Backyard Getaways crew found some middle ground this week in Golden Valley – literally. It’s where you’ll find a 45th Parallel marker, which is exactly halfway between the equator and the north pole (3,109 miles).
A simple plaque and sign mark this central location off Golden Valley Road and Theodore Wirth Parkway. Go any direction and you quickly discover there is plenty near the 45th Parallel.
Just a couple miles south is the Westwood Hills Nature Center in St. Louis Park.
“It’s a hidden gem, a hidden oasis,” said Becky McConnell, a Westwood naturalist. “It’s sort of tucked into this little neighborhood.”
Bordered by I-394 and Highway 169, Westwood Hills is a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
“People know about us but we always find people coming in like ‘wow, I didn’t know you were here,’ ” McConnell said. “That’s kind of the really common response we find with new people and they’re really happy to find us here and kind of discover us.”
See Birds and Owls
Westwood’s footprint is 160 acres. On a rainy day it has a Pacific Northwest look with lush green plants and marsh woods.
“I think there are so many benefits,” McConnell said. “Physical benefits and mental benefits of having outdoor green spaces for people to be in and the research backs that up too.”
The Nature Center has three miles of hiking trails and an abundance of wildlife.
A popular attraction is a bard owl. The owl is blind in one eye after suffering an injury. Because of that, he can’t be released into the wild so Westwood takes care of the bird.
Visitors clearly give a “hoot” about the owl and other birds at Westwood.
“We also have a red-tailed hawk as well that we care for,” said one of the naturalists. “A lot of people come to see them specifically.”
A Gift from Corporate America
The next stop was the General Mills Nature Preserve in Golden Valley, located a few minutes north of the 45th Parallel.
“We hear a lot of birds,” said Emily James, a General Mills employee. “See a lot of wildflowers. Just like to get the fresh air.”
For Golden Valley this is a gift from corporate America. The shallow marsh, wet meadow and flood plain forests are just blocks away from General Mills.
“I think we’re very fortunate to have it here,” James said.
The Nature Preserve is a popular spot for General Mills employees to decompress. Checking out colorful wildflowers or walking around the lake is the ideal break from a work day and can be therapeutic.
“It takes maybe 15 minutes to walk through the loop and get some fresh air during the day,” James said. “Takes away any stress from the day.”