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Tag Archive | "nature center"

Ren Faire raises funds for nature center

Courtesy photo

The 2019 Cedar Springs & Howard Christensen Nature Center Renaissance/Fantasy Faire was held last weekend May 18-19 at HCNC. 

“We had such a great time time on Saturday, the rain decided to join us off and on for Sunday,” said organizer Perry Hopkins.

Rain or shine the Dinder Brother’s Family Circus, Darmor Colony LARP, and cast were there to entertain. Most vendors left early on Sunday to prevent damage to their products but the shows and performances went on through 5:30 p.m. both days.

This Faire was a benefit for HCNC, and the net proceeds ($600) went to help fund the nature center. Besides raising money for it, the goal was to increase awareness of it. Hopkins said several volunteers were approached by patrons who said they had never been there or knew it existed. Also the staff at the HCNC Interpretive Center reported increased foot traffic directly related to the event. 

“There’s also a couple groups interested in renting and or possibly helping them with other events there,” noted Hopkins. He estimated that there was about 300 people there who had never been to the HCNC before.

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Sanctuary vs. Nature Center

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller


A nature sanctuary has a primary purpose for preserving the native species that inhabit ecosystems evolved in a particular environment. A nature center’s focus provides education and human experiences in nature to help people understand the intricate workings of the natural world communities.

Sanctuaries and nature centers can serve both purposes to some degree. I receive calls and e-mails from people interested in exploring Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary. Visitors are welcome even though the sanctuary is a privately owned sanctuary. We appreciate groups and people to call or e-mail to request permission so we know when to anticipate use or schedule guided activities. Donations are welcome to support management. The trail system traverses native communities in various stages of plant and animal habitat succession.

We manage the oak upland forest ecosystem to include early succession field, shrub, and pioneer forest stages that attract and maintain the greatest variety of species as habitat communities develop to the mature forest. Similar management in the wetland forest community maintains areas in early stages of community development for more sun-loving wetland plants and animals within the forest.

The management helps more than 250 plant species, 24 mammal, 11 herps, 51 butterflies, and over 100 bird species thrive. We have not surveyed dragonflies, fungi, fish, or other taxonomic groups well but are in the process. Management focus provides suitable living conditions for the greatest biodiversity of native species. Part of the sanctuary focus is to help people learn about native communities so we welcome visitors to come and learn even though primary focus is ecosystem biodiversity preservation. Hopefully people will gain ideas for managing a portion of their property to enhance biodiversity.

Visitors should support safe survival of species that make Ody Brook their home. Create minimal disturbance when hiking Ody Brook. During the 20 years I was director at Howard Christensen Nature Center, our focus was experiential education for Kent Intermediate School District groups where we taught science, social studies, language arts, and mathematics core curriculum to support classroom education with real world experiential education. This was accomplished in native communities and their associated habitats. To teach in native habitats it was necessary to manage the nature center in a manner that preserves natural communities while providing exploratory activities. Both preservation and education were part of the vision for the nature center.

Guided hikes to explore nature niches at Ody Brook can be organized for fee-based programs tailored to personal or group needs. This spring consider an evening watching the woodcock mating display, wildflowers walk, tree identification, bird watching, or other ecological explorations.

Mickey Shortt Jr., a fellow naturalist from North Carolina, recently shared the vision for the role of naturalists and interpreters of our natural and cultural heritage. He said: “At our sites, we are the voice: of the place, of the life within our site, and for conservation and preservation of our natural and historic areas.” I encourage each of us take responsibility for our personal home sites to ensure healthy nature niches greet future generations.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433 or call 616-696-1753.

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Snowshoe Saturdays at the nature center

January – March, 12:00-3:00 p.m. – Snowshoe Saturdays

The Red Pine Interpretive Center at Howard Christensen Nature Center is open for snowshoe rental on Saturdays, from noon to 3 p.m., when there is at least 6 inches of snow. On Friday night check the answering machine (616) 675-3158 or website at www.kentconservation.org/hcnc to see if the center will be open or closed on Saturday. Rental costs $4 per person for one-size-fits-all snowshoes. Rental is first-come first-served (reservations available for HCNC members). Hot drinks and snacks are available. Cross country skiers and hikers are also welcome to come in to warm up!
The Red Pine Interpretive Center is located at 16190 Red Pine Dr, Kent City, MI 49330.

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