Longtime naturalist receives Outstanding Citizen Award for 2024

Richfield, Minn. (June 26, 2024) – After nearly 28 years, one of Wood Lake Nature Center’s oldest locals is bidding farewell. Scott Ramsay, Richfield’s smiling, jovial, long-standing naturalist, retired on June 14.

On Tuesday night, Ramsay’s inspiring efforts in environmental education for all people were recognized as he received the 2024 Gene and Mary Jacobsen Outstanding Citizen Award. The award is given to a family, group, organization, business or individual who lives or works in Richfield and whose actions demonstrate an awareness and commitment to the attitudes and practices that foster human understanding, tolerance and the spirit of human relations.

With more than twenty nominations to his name, the impact of Ramsay’s role in the lives of Richfield students, teachers and adults could not be overstated. Estimates show that he has taught more than 100,000 students during his 40-year career.

“What made each of my classmates the most excited about taking a field trip to Wood Lake Nature Center was Scott,” noted a former student. “During each visit, he expressed his passion for nature and teaching in a way that made us want to stay there forever.”

Ramsay has been a mainstay at Wood Lake Nature Center since August 1996. Thousands of students and visitors, hundreds of teachers, and dozens of staff members have crossed paths with Ramsay since that time, and none without a story to tell.

“Scott shows up to work every day with such energy, excitement, and passion for his work,” acknowledged fellow naturalist Brianna Rodgers. “Whether it is dressing up as Humus the Clown, Rudy Refuse, or some other nature character to sing and dance and make kids laugh, he always gives his all for the public and his coworkers.”

When asked what has changed the most and least during his tenure in Richfield, Ramsay was quick to point to the ever-evolving marsh as a constant source of change for Wood Lake Nature Center. His description of those changes includes a lesson on the diversity of the ecosystem (second only to rainforests), muskrat populations and their direct correlation to island formation, along with the surprising impact of goldfish on the marsh.

When asked what has changed the least? “People are the same and still love WLNC as much as they did in 1996,” reflected Ramsay. “And the kids. Kids tend to be the same over the decades, and I still love to be with them while they witness nature.”

In addition to his role as environmental educator, Ramsay has spearheaded the volunteers at Wood Lake Nature Center for decades as well, including the volunteer staffing for the annual Urban Wildland Half Marathon.

His volunteers issued their own accolades, praising the way Ramsay mentored and befriended them, gave his time and attention to those he was teaching and always made individuals feel special.

“As a volunteer, I have observed him in his interactions with hundreds of students (many disabled) and us old senior retirees and I am impressed by his ability to show that preserving the world and all its beauty is important to each and every one of us,” reflected a volunteer.

His work with students, visitors and volunteers with differing abilities was cited frequently. While accepting the award on Tuesday, Ramsay acknowledged the additional effort required to teach and coordinate volunteer efforts for these individuals, but also the huge importance of that effort.

“I took that challenge up because I really believe that they should be able to offer their abilities and have an input,” said Ramsay. “Everybody is a part of the fabric of our community.”

Ramsay’s favorite spot at Wood Lake - the boardwalk - is shared by many. His advice for getting the most out of your experience?

“Go out and look everywhere! Look up and down and all around,” enthused Ramsay. “You can sit on the benches nearby and see birds, reptiles, fish and insects. If you sit quietly, the animals will come to you.”

Ramsay plans to enjoy his retirement by spending time fishing, hunting, biking and enjoying his cabin.