Located just over a mile south of S. Airport Road on Cass Road south of Traverse City, the new $1 million center will serve as the home offices of the Grand Traverse Conservation District, along with providing a wealth of nature displays, workshops, and programs for kids. Outdoor classes will be offered at an accompanying Oleson Pavilion.
Were going to have a lot of hands-on activities for children, says Erin Howard, an outreach specialist and Americorps member with the Huron Pines organization. There will also be many nature displays at the exhibit hall in the center, including some which were donated by Traverse City from the former zoo.
Some 25,000 children live within an hours drive of the new Nature Center, making it a prime destination for school outings.
For some area residents, the Nature Center is likely to be an introduction to what is largely an unknown park just south of Traverse City. The center will provide a gateway to a 600-acre nature preserve that straddles the city and Garfield Township along the Boardman River. To date, entrance to the preserve has been largely through an obscure parking lot off Cass Road at the Sabin Dam.
But with an attractive new building, parking lot and signage, the trail system through the preserve now seems much more inviting and accessible. Future plans call for the extension of the TART Trail system through the length of the preserve, connecting to a new trail that runs along the shore of Boardman Lake.
Those who visit the preserve will find opportunities for hiking, paddling, fishing, bird watching, spectacular vistas that change with the seasons, and a peaceful place to reflect on nature thats just minutes from the hubbub of S. Airport Road and its malls.
The center has been several years in the making, with many local organizations getting involved and donating funds, Howard notes. Grand Traverse County offered a challenge grant of $100,000 and local contributors helped the center to reach that goal. In fact, there were more than 300 donors, including big contributors such as Rotary Charities.
She adds that the Nature Center is a green building, constructed with the latest energy-saving systems and materials.
The center also uses native plants for its landscaping and the grounds include a butterfly garden along with a bird-feeding station donated by Wild Birds Unlimited.
This weekends event will run from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Activities will include tours of the center, hands-on nature exploration programs, green building sessions and homeowner workshops, nature hikes, canoeing, and other fun activities. There will also be a live animal exhibit offered by Nature Discovery on Saturday, and a live raptor program of birds such as hawks and falcons presented by Rebecca Lessard of Wings of Wonder on Sunday. All programs except canoeing will be offered free of charge.
The new Boardman River Nature Center and the Sabin Pond Trailhead is located 1.25 miles south of S. Airport Road on Cass Road, south of Traverse City.