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Discover the Lake Minnetonka Area, July/August 2006

A Big Idea for Big Island Park

By Kelly Westhoff

In recent summers, Lake Minnetonka's Big Island has played a role in some unsavory news stories. Congregating boats off the island's shores have created noise and mayhem and captured negative attention.

Last year, groups of veterans voiced outrage when a portion of the island that had been a veteran's camp for nearly a century was sold to the city of Orono.

This summer, however, there is good news coming from Big Island. Area children are exploring the island, soaking up sun, adventure, and learning while taking part in a new program offered by Orono Community Education.

The Big Island Summer Institute is making use of the city's newest acquisition by bringing small groups of students to the island and focusing their attention on the environment.

“I've thought about doing an environmental institute for a couple of years,” said Melanie DeLuca, director of Orono Community Education. “I've always wanted one in this area. We've done summer naturalist courses for kids through Community Ed., but never something this big.”

“The lake environment” DeLuca continued, “is something we need to teach children to respect. Big Island presents a great opportunity. The lake is right there, plus it's a perfect place for kids to feel like they are escaping to someplace special to study the land.”

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DeLuca pitched the idea to the city, it approved, and The Big Island Summer Institute was born. The program's goal is to educate and inspire area youth to be future stewards of natural environments. The program will teach students skills that will help them enjoy lakes and other natural resources, while also showing them how they can work to conserve them.


The remainder of this article can be found in the July-August 2006 issue of Lake Minnetonka Living (formerly Discover the Lake Minnetonka Area) magazine.

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