Boulder Lake Environmental Learning Center fundraises with DIY wreath kits

Unable to offer its popular tree-cutting day or wreath-making workshop due to the pandemic, Boulder Lake Environmental Learning Center is selling wreath kits as a fundraiser this holiday season.

Caleb Weiers, program coordinator at Boulder Lake Environmental Learning Center north of Duluth, snips a bough off a balsam tree that will become part of a wreath making kit sold to the public. The kits are available for people to make at home because in person tree-cutting and wreath making events can’t be held during the pandemic. (Boulder Lake Environmental Learning Center photo)

In a typical year for the past two decades, Boulder Lake Environmental Learning Center, just north of Duluth, opens its vast forest for one day for people to cut balsam Christmas trees.

Combined with a balsam bough wreath-making workshop held at Glensheen, which usually sold out, the holiday events were an important fundraiser for the center and a popular way for Northanders to get their outdoors holiday spirit on.

But nothing is "normal" this year, and with no option for public events that might draw people together during the pandemic, Boulder Lake Environmental Learning Center is bringing the balsam to the public.

Boulder Lake is selling wreath-making kits for people to assemble at home. The kits contain a metal wreath frame, balsam fir boughs, wire and accent decorations — pine, spruce, dogwood and cones — as well as a “how to” instructional video link.

“COVID-19 has shown us time and time again that we need to adapt and get creative,” said Ryan Huffmeier, director of the Boulder Lake Environmental Learning Center. “We decided to not let it get the better of us. So, we have come up with a contactless, social distancing way to provide our wreath-making experience.”


The balsam boughs and other natural decorations (besides the frame and wire) have all been sustainably harvested on Boulder Lake’s 18,000 acres. A 20-inch wreath kit is $25 and a 10-inch kit is $20, with all proceeds going to the center.

Balsam bough cutting, if done correctly, doesn’t harm the forest, and harvesting balsam helps spur new growth and reduce fire danger. Huffmeier notes that balsam fir is a shade tolerant, late-successional tree that has a relatively short lifespan of about 90 years. It tends to grow under red and white pines and has the potential to be a “ladder fuel tree” that brings fire up into the crowns of mature pines. Harvesting and thinning balsams during the holiday season not only assists in fire management, but also provides a regional economic resource.

Boulder Lake is a part of the University of Minnesota-Duluth’s College of Education and Human Service Professions. The nonprofit center provides educational programs on natural resource management.

To donate cash for programming or donate outdoor items such as canoes, kayaks, snowshoes, fishing gear (summer and winter) and camping gear, contact the center at

To learn more about Boulder Lake, go to .

Instead of in-person tree-cutting or wreath-making events this year, Boulder Lake Environmental Learning Center north of Duluth is selling wreath-making kits to rasie money for programming. (Photo courtesy of the Boulder Lake Environmental Learning Center)

About Boulder Lake wreath-making kits

To order: .


Pickup: Dec. 5, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Bear Paw Parking Lot, Boulder Lake Environmental Learning Center, 7328 Boulder Dam Road, about 20 miles north of Duluth off Rice Lake Road.

Home delivery: Within 25 miles of Boulder Lake; $10; 4-5 days for delivery. To make special arrangements, contact Boulder Lake at

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at
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