Supporters of the Howard Christensen Nature Center did not hibernate during the dark months of winter. They were busy making plans to re-open the nature center, at 16190 Red Pine Drive, which closed at the end of January due to budget issues. The popular nature center is experiencing a re-birth under the operation of a new non-profit organization called Lily’s Frog Pad Inc. The public is invited to participate in a “Bird’s-Eye Treasure Hunt” fundraiser on May 14, 2011 to celebrate the center’s Grand Re-opening. The Howard Christensen Nature Center occupies 135 acres owned by the Kent Intermediate School District and located west of Cedar Springs in the middle of the Rogue River State Game Area.
Lily’s Frog Pad Inc. is the creative idea of Cindy Perski, who is the President of the independent, 501c3 non-profit organization formed for the purpose of managing Howard Christensen Nature Center. Perski came up with the Lily’s Frog Pad name to initiate a fun, new image for the nature center that is well-known for providing environmental education field trips to West Michigan students since 1976. The Field Station, one of two “interpretive” buildings on the property, is expected to be re-opened as “Camp Lily” to provide a site for group overnight retreats. Other programs to serve the community’s needs are planned such as summer nature day camp, crafts classes, and fitness programs.
To “jump start” the nature center’s re-opening, Lily’s Frog Pad Inc. received a $3,100 grant from the Jimmy F. New Foundation. This Indiana foundation honors the founder of JF New, an environmental restoration and consulting firm with eight offices throughout the Midwest including three in West Olive, Ann Arbor and Holt, Michigan. The grant was awarded in January, but wasn’t disbursed until recently when the new non-profit board was established, and matching start-up funds were acquired from Cindy Perski. Former director and Lily’s Frog Pad Inc. Vice President, Kathy Reed, says this grant allowed the nature center to offer field trips again this spring, but additional grants, donations and fundraising events are critical to the continued operation of the nature center.
The first fund-raising event is the “Bird’s-Eye Treasure Hunt” on Saturday, May 14 from 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Participants must register in advance and make a $25.00 donation which allows them to hunt for 51 treasure “blocks” that have a value of $2.00 to $25.00 and a total value of $1,000.00! Rules and registration forms are available at the nature center and local libraries, or request one by e-mail. Lunch will be available for both visitors and participants to purchase from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
The Red Pine Interpretive Building at Howard Christensen Nature Center is now open to the public from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday with occasional exceptions due to field trips or other scheduled events. For more information call the Howard Christensen Nature Center at (616) 675-3158.