Never Not A Naturalist
Linda Radimecky is an interpretive naturalist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Photo by Deborah Rose
Linda Radimecky, an interpretive naturalist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, discusses the work she’s done in Afton State Park—and beyond—for more than two decades.
Naturalist Linda Radimecky grew up with an appreciation and curiosity for the great outdoors. After moving to Bloomington from Chicago when she was four years old, she had easy access to the central Minnesota farm that her father grew up on.
“I got to run all over that land when visiting my grandparents. I especially loved walking in the fall along an old wagon road that wound through the woods. I was curious about many things and asked a lot of questions of my dad—some he could answer, and some he couldn’t, so I tried to find out,” Radimecky recalls. “I did not know what a naturalist was until I was in college and either had to write a thesis or complete an internship. Not wanting to write yet another paper, I chose to intern at Wood Lake Nature Center in Richfield, Minnesota. I fell in love with it the first day as I ran around playing and learning with preschoolers. I loved sharing what I knew and learning what I didn’t along with the kids—discovering and exploring.”
Now, more than two decades into her career as a naturalist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Radimecky gets to discover and explore for a living. As a naturalist, Radimecky works to develop, implement, and publicize a comprehensive year-round area state park and trails interpretive and information service. She helps enhance the public’s awareness, appreciation, and understanding of the natural, cultural, and recreational resources at Afton State Park and other area state trails and units. Her work helps change visitors’ attitudes and behaviors toward nature and raise awareness of current environmental issues.
“I help people feel comfortable, have fun, and hopefully appreciate the outdoors by leading walks, bike rides, fishing programs, and helping to identify things people see in the parks and on the state trails,” she says. “Naturalists try to teach in a way that visitors don’t always realize they are learning something. I provide opportunities at Afton State Park, Gateway Brown’s Creek, Luce Line, and Minnesota Valley State Trails.”
There’s little that Radimecky doesn’t like about her job—comprised of playing, teaching, learning, and exploring the outdoors—but what she loves most is that every day on the job is different.
“I love the people I meet and get to have conversations with, share their first time discoveries, watch birds return in the spring and start nesting. I really enjoy watching the seasons ebb and flow and see how everything in connected,” she shares.
Though Radimecky works in state parks and trails throughout Minnesota, a large part of her job is the work she does in Afton State Park.
“Afton State Park is loved by many. We have a backpack-only campground, and it is a hike to get it, but once there, it is beautiful! Afton State Park has a lot of hills and topography, and lots of people run and train every day on our trails—with skiing and snowshoeing in the winter,” she says. “We have great walking trails along the St. Croix River, with lots of wildlife and birds to see. The original vegetation of the area was Oak Savanna, which is prairie with Burr oak trees scattered through it.”
Radimecky says that when you visit a prairie, it seems like there is always some plant blooming no matter the growing season, which is true of Afton State Park. The park also features four cabins and two yurts, which can be rented.
As a member of the GLBT community, Radimecky says she has always felt welcome in her industry and never has to give her identity a second thought.
“I rarely think about it. I talk about my life like all of my coworkers do. I do not wear my lifestyle on my sleeve and don’t draw attention to it, but I don’t hide it either,” she says. “I am married with no kids (except the four-legged furry versions). I don’t know if I am ever not doing naturalist work. I like to fly fish and teach others that art. We make maple syrup at home and watch birds, visit new pubs and try their offerings, and camp in Minnesota State Parks.”
When she isn’t enjoying nature (and pubs) with her wife, she is helping the Department of Natural Resources manage the land “owned by the people.”
“It’s a great responsibility, and we all do our best given the tools we have. We try to manage the land in a way that is best for everyone and all of the sometimes conflicting views on how that should happen,” she explains. “We try to manage for future generations while balancing the needs of the present. We try to help people appreciate what we have in Minnesota in hopes of fostering a caring stewardship of the land and resources.”
For more information on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us.