By Erin Crowell
Before the Boardman River Nature Center opened its doors two years ago, there wasnt an education facility dedicated to conservation efforts in the Grand Traverse region.
Its kind of shocking for this kind of community, says Colleen Masterson-Bzdok, education director of the Boardman Center.
Located on Cass Road, just south of Traverse City in the Boardman River Valley, the center opened in 2008 as the gateway to seven miles of trails running through 500 acres of forest, fields, marshes and wildlife habitat along the river. In addition to being the starting point for a trail system along the Boardman River, the center has provoked a positive response from the community with the multitude of programs and events. It is also at the center of activity with the Grand Traverse Conservation District.
NATURE IS CALLING
The motto of the nature center is Nature is Calling, and visitors both young and old can find a way to answer. With programs geared to preschools up through adults, the nature centers goal is to get everyone involved.
This has allowed us to reach the whole community, especially children, says Masterson-Bzdok. Kids are much more disconnected from nature. The things they actually do outside like soccer and baseball and soccer are structured activities. Theres not a lot of free play and theyre allowed to do that here to explore nature.
Every Tuesday, preschoolers and their guardians are invited to participate in Peepers the program with seasonal nature themes, from 10-11:30am. Families of all ages can enjoy weekend programs like All About Owls, held Saturday, April 24, from 1-2pm. Most programs have a recommended donation of $5, unless otherwise noted.
Other eco-conscious organizations have used the nature center to present programs, including the Grand Traverse Audubon Club and the Grand Traverse Hiking Club. On Thursday, April 22, the Audubon Club presents a program on wind power, from 7-9pm for teens and adults. On Tuesday, April 20, from 7-9pm, listen to the story of Ray Raehls and Roger Landfairs journey through Bhutan by bicycle, presented by the Hiking Club.
Generally we expect anywhere from 10 to 20 people at a program, says Jon Prins, outreach specialist with the center. At our spring break nature program, we got over 300.
ECO CONSCIOUS EFFORTS
While educational programs remain at the heart of the center, residents can put that knowledge to work. Conservation programs such as the Land Management Service and the Native Plant Rescue Program have maintained trails, uprooted invasive species, and restored eroding stream banks.
In 2009, the Land Management Services team maintained 24.5 miles of trails on 3,000+ acres in eight parklands, according to the Conservation Districts Annual Report. Over 4,500 plants were rescued from areas booked to be bulldozed.
The nature center also hosts an annual seedling sale, offering a variety of native plants, with close to 8,000 white pine seedlings to be donated to area schools. With financial support from Traverse City Light & Power, the seedling sale is one of the major fundraisers for the Conservation District.
The center relies on grants, contracts and donations to support its operations an expense close to $706,000. Last year, education programs accounted for $11,000, contributing to the $642,000 that helped cover 2009s operating expenses.
Masterson-Bzdok says the community plays a big role in supporting the center financially. We know its difficult to spend money on extracurricular activities, and so we try to keep program fees low, she says.
The Boardman River Nature Center is located at 1450 Cass Road in Traverse City. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4p.m. For more information on programs, visit www.natureiscalling.org or call 941-0960.