Midwest Region


Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge
17076  293rd Avenue
Zimmerman, MN 55398
763/389-3323 Fax: 763/389-3493

November 22, 2010

Anne Sittauer 763/389-3323 ext.11
Betsy Beneke 763/ 389-3323 ext.13

Old School House Closing Loss for Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge and Community

Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge's Old School House

Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge is losing a vital part of its visitor services program, as the Old School House has been closed. A health and safety audit was conducted on Nov. 3, 2010 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Found during the audit were a sagging roof, mold, the potential for histoplasmosis and other health-related deficiencies.

Anyone who has visited the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge for wildlife watching, environmental education, or to take part in a special event, knows about the Old School House. For more than 30 years the Refuge, with support from the Friends of Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, has hosted year-round public events and gatherings at this facility. The Wildlife Festival, as well as Winterfest - are both free, one-day family events that have attracted up 1,800 visitors.

The facility housed educational exhibits about Sherburne Refuge and was home to the Friends of Sherburne, housing administrative support offices and elements of the Friends sales outlet. The Old School House also provided space for biological research, meetings for community organizations and partner agencies.

Over time, the building developed significant health and safety issues. Refuge staff tried to maintain the facility, but a major restoration project would be needed to address health and safety concerns. Such a project would have altered the building beyond a recognizable state, and would not have been fiscally responsible.

As the Refuge’s only facility available to serve groups from the general public, the Old School House has become a Refuge landmark and an icon imbued with sentiment. Refuge Manager Anne Sittauer stated, “The Old School House has served us well for many years and it is very hard to let go of it. We have been patching it with band-aids for many years, but it’s now time to say good-bye.”

Given the popularity of Sherburne Refuge’s education and public outreach programs, any restored facility kept at its current square-footage would not be sufficient in size or amenities to host the numbers of visitors or kinds of uses that people have come to expect in a national wildlife refuge visitor facility.

The Sherburne Refuge staff and community must say good-bye to an old friend - one that's provided shelter to those who crossed its threshold for many years.


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Last updated: June 15, 2016