Year in Review 2021 | News

Amended executive order loosens some COVID-19 restrictions 

New COVID-19 restrictions are coming, following Gov. Tim Walz’s announcement at a recent press conference. All elementary schools in Minnesota will be allowed to open for hybrid or in-person instruction starting Jan. 18, if they are able to follow a newly expanded list of COVID-19 safety protocols. Other guidance targets restaurants, gyms, youth sports, and family gatherings. As of Dec. 18, dining establishments and bars will be allowed to offer outdoor service at 50% capacity or up to 100 patrons. Gyms and fitness centers will be able to reopen starting Jan. 4 at 25% capacity or 100 people maximum as long as clientele wear masks and maintain 12 feet of social distance. Youth sports can begin practices on Jan. 4, as well. Family gatherings of up to 10 people will be permitted, and up to two households can meet outdoors. The amended executive order is set to expire on Sunday, Jan. 10 at 11:59 p.m.

Luxury condominiums planned for Island Field development

North Oaks will soon welcome over 70 residents to the beautiful residence named Hill Farm Condominiums. Situated on land of Island Field, this project by Homestead Partners and Firm Ground Architects & Engineers will break ground in the spring of 2021, resulting in a three-story building with 37 condominiums during the structure’s first phase. Once complete, there will be 74 units in total, all preserving the area’s historic and nature-packed backdrop.

North Oaks resident wins big on new game show

Brianna Hershey, of North Oaks and a 2010 Mounds View High School graduate, appeared in the ABC show, “The Hustler,” a show that puts a twist on the traditional trivia-based game show. Each episode features five contestants who collaborate to answer a series of questions, worth $10,000 each, with the goal of building a collective prize pot that increases with each correct answer. The catch? One of the five contestants, the Hustler, already knows the answers, as the questions are based on their life. 

Hershey made it to the final three and now the goal was to decide which of the other two contestants was disguising their identity. It came down to the last minute and Brianna almost changed her mind on who she thought was the Hustler. It was so intense as Hershey took the name cards in her hands and pondered whether to change her answer. The game show host, Craig Ferguson, asked her one last time to make her decision. But, she stayed with her gut instinct and won the game. Hershey was so excited that she could hardly catch her breath as she realized she would share the grand prize of $160,000.

North Oaks now has a full day preschool

This five-day, full day, year-before kindergarten program is designed to help children prepare to enter kindergarten with the skills and behaviors necessary to be successful. Children who are four years old before Sept. 1 of the current school year and are toilet trained are eligible to enroll. 

The White Bear Lake Area Preschool program includes — licensed teachers and trained assistants, a creative learning curriculum, Handwriting Without Tears instruction,  ongoing assessment using Teaching Strategies Gold to measure student’s growth in all areas of early childhood development  and low child/teacher ratio. Children work on listening, personal and social development, language and literacy, and thinking and math skills through guided play, group time, and social interaction. The pre-school is located at North Oaks East Recreation Building, 5 Mink Lane in North Oaks. 

Members of the City Council and mayor take oath of office 

Mayor Kara Ries and Council Members Sara Shah and Tom Watson were sworn in to the North Oaks City Council at a special meeting held Monday, Jan. 4. The three took their oaths of office separately to abide by COVID-19 safety precautions. They join Council Member Jim Hara, who took his official oath of office Dec. 10. The Council was fleshed out further with the appointment of Rich Dujmovic to council at the regular City Council meeting 10 days later on Jan. 14. Mr. Dujmovic’s appointment fills the vacancy left on the council by Kara Ries’ election to mayor; the term has two years remaining.

Birkie brought to North Oaks

The American Birkebeiner (called the Birkie) is the largest cross-country ski race in North America, and one of the longest. Normally the ski race takes place only in Wisconsin going from Cable to Hayward through a national forest for 54 km (33 miles). It began in 1973 with 35 racers and now attracts over 10,000 from all over the world (and several each year from North Oaks). With the addition of 20,000 spectators, it makes Hayward a pretty hoping place on race weekend. James Allen, of North Oaks, completed the grueling competition this year within the confines of North Oaks, the first time the event has occurred within our city. Doing the race here became possible due to the pandemic. 

Allen completed the race Tuesday, Feb. 23 by skiing around Pleasant Lake, up the trail linking Pleasant to Deep Lake, around Deep Lake with the Wilkerson Lake extension, and back to Pleasant Lake. This loop is a lovely trip through woods, streams, and lakes and measures 18 km. The exact same loop was repeated a second time which now accumulated 36 km. Then one last trip around Pleasant Lake alone filled out the remaining required 8 km for a total of 43 km. (actually 44.6). As a side note, Allen accomplished this feat just 27 weeks after a total hip replacement. 

Jim Nancekivell of North Oaks awarded “Best of Houzz” 2021

Jim Nancekivell of Nancekivell Home Planning and Design has won a “Best Of Houzz” award in Customer Service on Houzz, the leading platform for home renovation and design. The home renovation design firm was chosen by the millions of homeowners that comprise the Houzz community from among more than 2.5 million active home building, remodeling and design industry professionals. The Best of Houzz badge is awarded annually, in three categories — design, customer service, and photography. 

About 80% of the projects Nancekivell works on are for homeowners in the North Oaks community. He brings over 40 years of interdisciplinary design experience and has been involved with renovation and new construction projects for over twenty years.

Eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccination opens to all Minnesotans ages 16 and up 

Minnesota will expand COVID-19 vaccination eligibility to all state residents 16 and older starting on Tuesday, March 30. Those at highest risk for contracting COVID-19 will continue to be prioritized for vaccination. Gov. Tim Walz unveiled the expansion of vaccine admissibility at a press conference on Friday, March 26. The Minnesota Department of Health is expecting a jump in vaccine supply from the federal government the first week of April. Even with the increase in vaccine shipments, demand will continue to exceed supply for the time being, so not everyone eligible will be able to immediately make an appointment. The opening of eligibility comes at a critical time as public health officials are increasingly concerned about variants of the disease fueling upticks of cases and hospitalizations. 

Minnesota’s measured vaccine rollout program has ensured shots go first to the highest priority groups, including the elderly, those with underlying health conditions, longterm care residents, health-care workers, and child-care and school employees. Since the pandemic began, the state has recorded 6,789 total deaths from COVID-19, of which 4,248 involve people connected to longterm care or assisted living settings. 

Mouse management as part of tick control

In 2015, the North Oaks Tick Task Force developed the North Oaks Integrated Pest Management Program (NOIPMP). Now part of the Natural Resources Commission, this program provides opportunities to limit Lyme and other tick-borne diseases year-round by adopting seasonally appropriate management strategies. A portion of that management program is a data-driven deer management program, conducted most years between November and March. 

As spring approaches, strategy turns to mouse control and personal protection (see the article “Tick Season is Coming” in the March issue of the North Oaks News for tips on personal protection). Remember, the black-legged tick that carries Lyme is active when outdoor temperatures reach above 38°F. Mouse population management can help reduce ticks in your yard.

Eighth-grade entrepreneur hopes for a bite of the laundry market

Deling Chen of North Oaks has invented Sock Munch, a device that helps keep your socks from disappearing in the wash. During the early stages of designing, Chen wanted something that was appealing to everyone and useful. Since she is always missing socks, she thought that something to save socks would be a great idea. 

Chen did some research online and found that people can lose up to 15 socks per year! I asked my family and friends, and they have also had frustration finding the other sock. Her goal with Sock Munch is to make laundry more fun, a lot easier, and reduce headaches from lost socks. 

Local Rotary clubs hold forum on human trafficking

A virtual community forum was held April 15 online for parents, students, teachers and residents to inform the community about human trafficking. The event was sponsored by the Arden Hills, Shoreview, New Brighton, and Mounds View Rotary clubs. 

Human trafficking is defined as the unlawful act of transporting or coercing people in order to benefit from their work or service, typically in the form of forced labor or sexual exploitation. The panel of speakers at the forum were: Detective Paul Kroshus, an expert in victim-centered trafficking investigations; Jessica Bartholomew, founder of Anti Child Trafficking United; CeCe Terlouw, founder of Terebinth Refuge of Waite Park; and Eleana Lukes, trafficking survivor and crisis advocate at Terebinth Refuge. The moderator was Angela Davis from MPR News.

Jumping worms invade North Oaks

As if a pandemic, wildfires, locusts, and a rocket falling to Earth aren’t enough to worry about, now we are being invaded by jumping worms! And there is nothing funny about jumping worms. Their name comes from their tendency to jump around when disturbed, and they display a single, wide, almost white ring around their body. 

They thrive in leaf cover and in the top couple of inches of soil and can weather our winters underground as tiny cocoons. Where they live is what they destroy, and there is no known remedy to an infestation. They grow larger than our normal earthworms and live in concentrated groups. These packs of worms live in the top six inches of the soil and work through the soil relentlessly until it resembles coffee grounds. 

Bear sightings reported in North Oaks

Black bears are naturally cautious animals that avoid human contact for their safety, but conflicts between people and bears can arise. To live peacefully with bears, humans play a part by being responsible for their behavior. We can prevent conflict and stay safe, at home and while exploring nature, by reducing the availability of bear attractants and preparing for bear encounters.

You can reduce bear conflicts by reducing attractants. Conflicts can arise when bears interact with domestic pets, tip over garbage cans, or damage bird feeders, personal property, beehives, livestock and agricultural crops. The best way to avoid problems with bears is to not attract them in the first place. Once a bear finds a food source, it will return repeatedly. Bears prefer natural foods and are especially attracted to calorie-dense food sources. 

They have an incredible sense of smell, are opportunistic and are easily attracted to foods or food sources provided by humans (including things like dog food, birdseed and grease). Bear attractants are things that smell, taste or look like food to bears. These include birdseed, dog food, grease on grills, garbage, fish entrails and fruit. Taking the initiative to secure or remove attractants will help prevent bears from becoming a nuisance.

Keeping Pleasant Lake pleasant is not an easy task

Pleasant Lake and the North Oaks beach are enviable features that members hope to enjoy all summer long. The beach will officially open on June 1 and there will be no lifeguards on duty this season. NOHOA has been vigilant and pro-active in trying to ensure that this valuable resource is ready for summer activities. 

NOHOA continues to work closely with the Vadnais Lake Area Water Management Organization (VLAWMO), the MN Department of Natural Resources, the Saint Paul Regional Water Services (SPRWS), and other stake holders to conduct activities that address the water quality in Pleasant Lake and surrounding water bodies. As if keeping the fowl and geese away from the beach and swimming area is not enough to contend with, we also have to deal with invasive aquatic vegetation.

On the beach area itself, treatment for swimmer’s itch will continue. Aquatic weeds will be harvested again this year and the beach area will be cleaned regularly. Unfortunately, some Members seem to think that the beach area is a dump site for waste from their house, which makes the cleanup more extensive than it should be.

North Oaks’ high school junior is tennis state champion

Mounds View High School junior Bjorn Swenson of North Oaks became the 2021 State Class 2A Singles champion on Friday, June 11. During a blisteringly hot day at Prior Lake High School, following over an hour and a half delay, Swenson clinched the title with a 6–2, 6–4 win against Edina’s Matthew Fullerton. Swenson earned the same championship title his freshman year, and since no tournament took place during the pandemic in 2020, this was an especially meaningful achievement to cap his impressive 22–0 season. Swenson is one of only two Mounds View players to clinch the state championships in tennis, joining Wyatt McCoy (2007) in that honor. 

NOHOA hosts Arbor Month event at Mary Hill Park

Saturday, May 22 was a beautiful day in North Oaks, and there was no better place to enjoy it than at the Arbor Month Event. The purpose of this community education event was to engage homeowners and encourage them to use ecologically sound practices that preserve and enhance the natural environment on their properties and in the greater North Oaks community. The well-attended event provided informative displays and lots of valuable literature about trees, woodlands, native plants, gardening, and water resources, with most available to take home. 

 In addition to the displays and free information handouts, this family-friendly get together also was filled with signs identifying many tree and shrub varieties, signs highlighting native wildflowers, and warnings identifying invasive species that we are constantly battling in the community. The highlight of the Arbor Month Event was the planting of a bur oak tree, complete with an introduction to tree planting, including making a site selection, proper sizing of the hole, and a shovel-to-watering start-to-finish demonstration.

North Oaks’ couple making their mark on state’s racing industry

Paul and Suzanne Hanifl of North Oaks hope to make their mark on Minnesota’s thoroughbred racing industry. The couple, who left the Chicago area a few years ago to be closer to their three children and grandchildren, made a deliberate decision to advance horse racing in Minnesota after relocating their small breeding operation to St. Michael. A half-dozen thoroughbred mares call Suzanne Stables home and the Hanifls spare no expense finding the best stallions to service them.

In June, the Hanifls welcomed their latest baby, a muscular bay colt with a very famous dad: Triple Crown winner Justify. The exuberant youngster was featured in a June 2 piece by a Rochester television station as the state’s first Justify son. The reporter pointed out that a colt sired by a Triple Crown winner represents a big step forward in the Minnesota racing industry, which has a $407 million impact on the state’s economy, according to a University of Minnesota study. Stud fees to rock star racehorses are in the six figures. But to the Hanifls, the investment is means to an end: to breed “a real good horse, a high-end graded stakes winner,” Paul told the Rochester reporter, while they still can.

North Oaks’ own Noah’s ark

Jey Carlson of North Oaks built a canoe with 20-foot-long wood strips from the ceiling of a North Oaks home that he managed to salvage. Jey demolished the ceiling of the screened-in porch that had a lot of clean redwood. He also used 50-year-old wood from an old deck. He pulled all the nails and ripped the 1 x 6 pieces into 3/8” x ¾” strips. Then he took the strips to a friend’s wood shop and sanded the rips smooth. He then built a strongback to support the redwood strips to form the canoe. He used wood that came from scraps of plywood and 2 x 6’s from his construction worksites. 

It took weeks to put the strips on the form. He used Elmer’s max wood glue on every strip; once the strips were attached, he sanded the outside of the boat smooth. He mixed resins together with sawdust to make a peanut butter putty to fill any holes where the staples and screws had been. He had to fiberglass the bottom of the boat. After that, he dismantled the canoe from the strongback. He built supports to sand the inside, added the peanut butter seal with epoxy, and fiber-glassed the inside. He is now finishing and sanding imperfections. Building the seats and thwarts (the structural crosspiece across a canoe) are the last step. The finished canoe is 18 feet, 6 inches long. 

North Oaks Rummage Sale returns this September

It’s just like A, B, C… The arena is awesome, the bargains are bigger and better than ever, and the community donations are certainly amazing. It’s that time again to donate your amazing, gently used goods to the North Oaks Rummage Sale. Then make your shopping list and return the following weekend to find those big bargains. The quality (and quantity) of merchandise available is mind-boggling! The sale is truly the ultimate in re-using, recycling, and reducing discards to the landfill.  

This is possibly the largest charity rummage sale in the metro area and is extremely well organized. Overhead signs designate the various departments where everything is beautifully displayed, sized, sorted, tested, and priced! Visit the website, like and follow us on Facebook and Instagram @ northoaksrummagesale. All proceeds benefit programs at Children’s Minnesota which are supported by Children’s Hospital Association (CHA). “Making a Difference…One Child at a Time.”

Night to Unite brings neighbors together

On Tuesday, Aug. 3, North Oaks residents participated in National Night to Unite. This nationwide initiative brings residents and communities together with law enforcement, fi re departments, and City staff to build relationships in a casual block party setting. 

There were eight North Oaks Night to Unite block parties registered with the Ramsey County Sheriff ’s department, along with others that took place. Officer Burrell, Lake Johanna Fire Department members, Community Service officers, Mayor Ries, Council Member Jim Hara, and City Administrator Kevin Kress visited some of the gatherings to meet with residents. 

Throughout the seven communities that the Ramsey County Sheriff ’s office supports, there were 126 events registered in a great display of community spirit.

Dr. Neil Shah of North Oaks announces his bid for Governor of Minnesota 

Dr. Neil Shah has announced that he is running for the Republican nomination in the 2022 Minnesota Governor’s race. Shah is a physician and small business owner who lives in North Oaks with his wife and children. Dr. Shah’s entrance into the political arena is inspired by his deep concern for the direction of the state and its leadership.

Farm Fest 2021: A whopping success

Thank you to our community for spending the afternoon at the Hill Farm for Farm Fest 2021! While we’re still counting tickets to reach the final tallies, this year’s Farm Fest set several new records, including: record attendance, record silent auction proceeds, and record food and beverage sales. While the Hill Farm Historical Society Board of Directors was cautiously optimistic that members of our community would be ready to return to the Hill Farm this fall for Farm Fest, you blew us away. 

“In-Style for the Holidays” will have you warm, cozy, and comfy for the holidays

“Home for the Holidays” has taken on a new meaning this year and last. With our beloved holiday home tour on hold again this year, we have found a new way to launch the holiday season. The North Oaks Children’s Hospital Guild I will be hosting “InStyle for the Holidays,” a luncheon, fashion show, boutique, and silent auction. The event will take place at the North Oaks Golf Club on Friday, Nov. 19 and Saturday, Nov. 20. The silent auction will feature five professionally decorated Christmas trees, five wreaths, and five sets of two outdoor pots. 

City Council votes against Gate Hill development

The bulk of the council meeting was a lengthy discussion on whether to approve or deny the application of the final plan/plat/ subdivision for the Gate Hill development. After nearly four hours of discussion, Council Member Tom Watson made a motion to deny the final plans/ plat/subdivision for the Gate Hill site based on nine findings. The motion to deny the application was approved 3-2 with Mayor Kara Ries, Council Members Jim Hara and Watson voting “aye” and Council Members Rich Dujmovic and Sara Shah voting “nay.”

A moment of silence for man who died in car crash

Vince Glasgow, of North Oaks, died in a one-vehicle car accident Saturday, Oct. 9. The crash happened about 8 p.m. near W. Pleasant Lake Road and Lawton Lane in North Oaks. Glasgow was a husband and a father of five. He was recognized at the beginning of the North Oaks City Council meeting Oct. 14 when Mayor Kara Ries read a somber statement about the death of North Oaks resident Vince Glasgow. 

“It is with a heavy heart that I call tonights meeting to order. This past Saturday we lost a member of our community suddenly in a tragic accident. A young father left behind his young children and wife. Many of us knew them well and attended events and school with them. This loss has impacted our community deeply. Out of respect, I would like to take a moment of silence to remember Vince Glasgow. Thank you everybody for contributing to the thoughts and support for his family. I am grateful that our community is rallying around the family to support them during this difficult time. For more information you can call our city office to find out how you can help the family. There are many organizations they have set up to do so.” 

Wrapping up 2021 road repair season in North Oaks

Work has been largely completed on the 2021 Street Improvement Project. Restoration of the disturbed vegetated areas is complete but a few minor clean up items remain. The Project finished under budget, but there are a couple of minor costs that will be carried over into next year (some work requires waiting for sufficient vegetation growth to occur). It is anticipated that the Project will have a final cost of $550,000; this number does not include road maintenance tasks, such as seal coating and hole patching. 

During this road repair season, 1.7 miles of North Oaks roads were reclaimed. The roads that were improved this season include Robb Farm Road from Wren Lane to Blue Goose Road, Blue Goose Road from Robb Farm Road to Duck Pass, Duck Pass Road from Blue Goose Road to the north, Teal Island Road from Duck Pass Road to the west, Evergreen Road from East Pleasant Lake Road to the north, Willow Road from Pleasant Lake Road to Evergreen Court, Capaul Woods Court, and Brainard Way. 

In the process of these improvements, eight rusty and collapsing culverts were replaced with high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe. These new road surfaces meet a 7-ton design and are designed for a life span commensurate with their usage. Looking toward 2022, preparations for next year’s Street Improvement Project have already begun. 

A new tree takes root at East Rec

On Thursday, Oct. 14, a group of hearty members planted a Princeton Elm tree at East Rec, between the bioswale and the basketball court. Like the event at Mary Hill Park earlier in the summer, Barb Spears, the NOHOA Natural Environment Consultant, lead the planting and provided an informative and hands-on course on planting a tree correctly. NOHOA Director Patricia Orud brought the tree for planting, Diane Gorder recorded the event for posterity, Bob Larson (thankfully) brought shovels, City Natural Resources Commission Chair Andrew Hawkins had the necessary tools in his truck, and Director Jon Cotner carted away the rocks that were unearthed. 

Operation Clearview provides safety in North Oaks

With fall upon us and the autumnal foliage fading, it’s time to consider trimming trees and cleaning up leaves. Operation Clearview is a community wide program designed to encourage all property owners to keep the site lines of our roads free from foliage obstructions. Brush and trees throughout the city require frequent maintenance to ensure that they do not grow out and onto the roadway, blocking the view of motorists and pedestrians. Create a “clear view” along North Oaks roads – 5 feet back and 12 feet up from the edge of the road. Operation Clearview has been in effect in our community since at least 2004. 

Because an individual property owner’s boundary line extends to the center of the road, the responsibility for complying with the city ordinance and NOHOA policy rests with each individual property owner in North Oaks. The city forester will be out making note of properties that need to be trimmed back for safety reasons. If your property is identified and requires some safety trimming, you will receive a letter from the city notifying you. Please help do your part to eliminate traffic hazards and keep our bikers, walkers, vehicles, and emergency vehicles moving safely throughout the city.

Bows and boughs brightens North Oaks

The North Oaks Garden Club is so grateful to community members who helped keep alive the annual tradition of assembling and hanging boughs throughout North Oaks! This year brought an extra challenge, as the regular supplier of the greens used to make the boughs notified the Garden Club in early October that a new source would be needed for the greens. North Oaks resident (and tree farm owner) Steve Kavan learned of our plight and connected us with Newell Christmas Tree Farm in Scandia. 

A mighty group of volunteers (including Garden Club members, their families, and other community members) gathered at Newell’s, gloves and loppers in hand. They filled the available trailer and Steve Kavan’s truck bed to the brim with beautifully fresh, mixed greens. Because of limited trailer capacity, however, we were not able to obtain enough greens for every intersection in North Oaks, so neighborhood routes were adjusted in an effort to place boughs at all major street intersections throughout North Oaks. 

Once the greens were counted, sorted, and assembled into boughs, they were then wired together, decked with beautiful red bows, and hung by Garden Club and community members. In addition to thanking the many volunteers we helped us continue this wonderful community tradition this year, the North Oaks Garden Club would also like to thank the Hill Farm Historical Society for allowing us to use the grounds for bough sorting and assembly. 

Hill Farms condos hosts construction celebration

Hill Farm Condominiums is full speed ahead. Developers closed on the property in early October and the North Oaks Company has finished their infrastructure including water, sewer gas and electric. With the grading complete, foundation excavation will begin by the end of November. Located on 22 acres and surrounded by a 300+ acre conservation area on the eastern edge of North Oaks, Hill Farm Condominiums will include custom-designed condos ranging from 1,200 to 3,800 square feet. 

One unique aspect of Hill Farm Condominiums are the plentiful amenities. The 1,500 square foot Club Room features a soaring ceiling height of 30 feet with a floor to ceiling stone fi replace. And the expansive 4,000 square foot Patio includes fi replaces, modeled after the North Oaks Golf Club patio, overlooking the preserved acreage and trail connection will surely be a centerpiece of the development. While many future residents have expressed their joy at being close enough to frequent North Oaks Golf Club, they will have the added benefit of a golf simulator room to perfect their game in the offseason. The Fitness Room will include the standard equipment offerings as well as a first-of-its-kind Fitness on Demand room for web and app-based training programs. 

It’s calling down to neighbors to see if they want to grill out on the Patio. It’s having a weekly Poker night. It’s meeting up with friends for a walk along the trail. It’s an opportunity to see and talk to neighbors in the secured comfort and extension of your home. 

Crime wave hits North Oaks

Deputy Mike Burrell shared at the Nov. 10 City Council meeting that there were various community meetings regarding the recent wave of crime in the city. One was at Rapp Farm and another one was at the North Oaks Homeowners Safety and Security meeting. 

“I heard some concerns from NOHOA about some of the issues they’ve been dealing with, mainly with traffic,” Burrell said. “Over the last month I’ve increased traffic enforcement and I believe it’s the highest month that I can recall in recent history of traffic stops that we’ve done.” He went on to say that this is based on citizen complaints of speeding on East Pleasant Road, North Oaks Road, and West Pleasant. 

There were 32 tickets issued in October versus seven in September. He also noted that there has been a recent wave of crime across the metro area, however North Oaks has not seen as much of an uptick as other local communities.

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