Minna Anthony Common: A nature preservation pioneer

History lesson: A true nature trailblazer
Published: Jun. 9, 2023 at 7:34 AM EDT
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WELLESLEY ISLAND, New York (WWNY) - These days, the weather is perfect for enjoying the sights and sounds at the Minna Anthony Common Nature Center.

There are nine miles of trails and countless types of wildlife to spot. But who was Minna Anthony Common?

So, Minna Anthony Common was a Watertown resident, but also a summer resident in the Thousand islands Park,” nature center director Gabriela Padewska said, “so she explored this area, canoed in this area, scrambled rock ledges, so she really got to explore the flora and fauna here at Wellesley Island. And there’s a great book about her called ‘Blazing the Trail, the Story of Minna Anthony’ that talks about her beginnings.”

Having grown up appreciating the nature here, Minna became passionate about preserving it and educating others about it.

“There was a patch of woods behind her house that was slated to be torn down and she did not stand for that, so she petitioned to start a nature trail,” Padewska said, “so in 1935 she created the Rock Ridges Nature Trail, and that was her first foray into conservation and that’s what her legacy is all about.”

She was also a talented artist. During a time when you couldn’t just Google a bird or plant, Minna would patiently illustrate them, then write about and publish her observations in the Watertown Daily Times newspaper for 25 years.

“It was this beautiful media of art to teach herself and teach others about nature,” Padewska said.

Minna also was the founder of the North Country Birding Club. But it was not her, who founded her namesake nature center, it was her daughter after Minna’s death in 1950.

“The nature center was founded in 1969,” Padewska said. “It was spearheaded by Catherine Common Johnson, Minna’s daughter. She was a force for good. She saw the good work her mom did. When this land came up for purchase, she petitioned New York state to buy the land and build the nature center and name it in honor of her pioneering mother, Minna Anthony Common.”

For more than 50 years, the center has been a bastion for environmental education and preservation, a continuation of Minna’s legacy.

“We hope Minna would be proud of a continuation of her legacy,” Padewska said, “being able to enjoy nature and through that enjoyment, being able to protect and preserve.”