Blandford Nature Center educates visitors about enviroment

LAND STEWARDSHIP: Hudsonville Christian Middle School students spent time at the Blandford Nature Center as part of a stewardship unit. The children were taught about native plants and invasive species by Blandford educators and then went out and pulled up invasive species. (Pioneer photo/Katlyn Vuillemot)

LAND STEWARDSHIP: Hudsonville Christian Middle School students spent time at the Blandford Nature Center as part of a stewardship unit. The children were taught about native plants and invasive species by Blandford educators and then went out and pulled up invasive species. (Pioneer photo/Katlyn Vuillemot)

GRAND RAPIDS — The Blandford Nature Center can be an escape from both the house and the city for less than $20 for a family of six. It offers an educational experience for everyone to get their hands dirty while learning and discovering the world around them.

Among the highlights of the nature center are the rescued animals it houses.

When Bob the Bobcat was found, he was in the hands of people who illegally owned him. Because the owners tried to treat Bob as a pet, they had him declawed.

Eventually, neighbors spotted Bob and reported the family who owned him. In 2006, Bob was transferred to the Blandford Nature Center.

Because Bob was declawed and dependent on humans, he could not defend or feed himself. He could not survive in the wild.

Bob is one of close to 40 rescued animals the Blandford Nature Center houses.

The Blandford Nature Center is a non-profit educational center that works to teach children and adults how to create a healthy, sustainable world.

When the nature center first began accepting rescued animals, it also served as a rehabilitation center. In 2013, the center stopped taking in animals needing rehab because of the high expense.

Today, animals including hawks, falcons, owls, vultures, mammals and reptiles reside at Blandford.

The stories behind how each animal was rescued are now used to help teach the importance of animal awareness to visitors.

RESCUED ANIMALS: Bob the Bobcat was illegally owned and declawed. Because Bob was declawed and dependent on humans, he could not defend or feed himself. He could not survive in the wild. Bob is one of close to 40 rescued animals the Blandford Nature Center houses. (Courtesy photo/Denise M. Peterson

RESCUED ANIMALS: Bob the Bobcat was illegally owned and declawed. Because Bob was declawed and dependent on humans, he could not defend or feed himself. He could not survive in the wild. Bob is one of close to 40 rescued animals the Blandford Nature Center houses. (Courtesy photo/Denise M. Peterson

“A lot of people don’t get a chance to see animals in their natural environment, so seeing them up close can be super fulfilling,” said Katelyn Nettler, education program associate. “By bringing light to the animals’ stories, we can bring awareness for people to realize that nature isn’t just a peaceful place, but a home to animals.”

Besides housing rescued animals, the center has six heritage buildings in its Historic Village.

“We use the heritage buildings for our education programs, but people also like to come and see them because they are really cool,” said Corey Turner, development manager at Blandford.

The Historic Village features the Star Schoolhouse, the Robinson Khutic Log Cabin, the Homestead Barn, the Sugarhouse, the R.B. Stilwill Blacksmith Shop and the Learning Lab.

Many of these historical buildings were brought to the Blandford Nature Center for educational purposes. They are used in the education programs and festivals the nature center hosts.

All year round, Blandford welcomes students from surrounding school districts as well as adults and children of all ages to community programs.

Programs include field botany, chainsaw safety, several concert series, farming and more.

HISTORY: The Blandford Nature Center also has a Heritage Village, which features six historic buildings for visitors to explore. Pictured are students from Paris Ridge Elementary School in the Star Schoolhouse. (Pioneer photo/Katlyn Vuillemot)

HISTORY: The Blandford Nature Center also has a Heritage Village, which features six historic buildings for visitors to explore. Pictured are students from Paris Ridge Elementary School in the Star Schoolhouse. (Pioneer photo/Katlyn Vuillemot)

On Monday, Hudsonville Christian Middle School students spent time at the Blandford Nature Center as part of a stewardship unit.

The children were taught about native plants and invasive species by Blandford educators and then went out and pulled up invasive species.

“Keeping native plants is really important for a healthy ecosystem and many animals depend on them to survive,” Nettler said. “We want to remove non-native species because they can grow out of control and take over native species.”

The nature center also has a 10-acre farm where educators focus on teaching guests about food production.

“Our farm produces up to 300 varieties of vegetables from tomatoes to bok choy to kale,” Turner said. “Every Tuesday, people who are part of the Community Supported Agriculture system can bring home a huge bin of veggies. It’s a really great place to get organic, locally grown produce.”

The center also offers multiple festivals, such as the Sugarbush Festival, where guests learn how to make maple syrup, and the Harvest Festival, where participants can make candles and scarecrows, enjoy wagon rides and listen to live music.

On Friday, June 19, Blandford will host a Longest Day 5K where participants will get to run the trails of the center.

The run will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. and costs $40.

For familes exploring for the day, the center also offers scavenger hunt backpacks full of supplies for different themes.

For example, if a family was interested in a bird scavenger hunt, the backpack would have items specific to that hunt, such as binoculars.

“The nature center is a great place because it allows you to unplug from technology and get some fresh air,” Turner said. “There is something for all ages all year round and there is always something new because nature is always changing. From snowshoeing in the winter to summer camps, there is always something to do. It’s a place that lets kids be kids.”

If you go:

Blandford Nature Center

Location:

1715 Hillburn Ave NW Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Distance from downtown Big Rapids:

58 miles, approximately 1 hour travel time

Admission:

$3 per person (memberships available)

Hours:

Monday through Friday: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Saturdays: Noon – 5 p.m.

Contact:

(616) 735-6240

info@blandfordnaturecenter.org

Website:

blandfordnaturecenter.org

Notes: Blandford Nature Center staff encourages guests to pack a lunch for a picnic in the grass or at picnic tables in the center.

 

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Posted by Katlyn Vuillemot

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