When searching for a location for a nature hike, nature lovers and amateur naturalists may not consider city parks. They are too small, too crowded, over developed, and unless they are nearby, too little known. Sunfish Lake Park should be on the radar for those looking for a nature site in the Twin Cities seven-county metro area.
At 284 acres, Sunfish Lake Park is a small park but the largest park in the City of Lake Elmo park system. It is conveniently located just north of Lake Elmo Park Reserve and unlike that park it does not charge a fee. The City of Lake Elmo calls it the “crown jewel of the Lake Elmo park system.” The Minnesota DNR designated it as a regionally significant ecological area (RSEA). The park includes two native plant communities, Oak – (Red Maple) Woodland and Red Oak – Sugar Maple – Basswood – (Bitternut Hickory) Forest. Thirteen bird species designated as of “greatest conservation need” have been seed here, including Acadian Flycatcher and Hooded Warbler, both species of special concern, and Bald Eagle, a tracked species. American ginseng, a plant species of special concern, is also found here.
Nine miles of wide mowed trails wind through woodlands, around wetlands, and through a 17-acre prairie restoration. On winter weekends the trails are well used by cross-country skiers, dog walkers, and the occasional amateur naturalist.