GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Most people first experience the Blandford Nature Center on a school trip, but the facility is a place for anyone to get in touch with nature.
“We are trying to get more done out in the community where we offer fun things that families can do,” notes environmental educator Sidney Baxter. “It's not just a classroom here.”
And with the recent addition of the old Highlands Golf Course, more variety will be available for hiking and learning. “We're currently working on restoring that whole place to a more natural area,” Baxter explains. “There's going to be wildflowers and other native species that are going to support native wildlife here versus invasive species or lots of grass with fertilizers.”
“We have a Highlands restoration tour and invasive plant ID and treatment program, so you can learn how to take care of invasives in your area or your backyard.”
Blandford is noted for its trails, which stretch now to eight miles in shady woods and the sun-drenched former golf course. Bikes are not allowed on the trails, but dogs are, as long as their owners keep them on leads and pick up after them.
Trail use is not restricted to visitor center hours: Trails are open from sunrise to sunset seven days a week.
Inside the visitor center is a main attraction: The wildlife ambassadors, a special group of animals normally found in the wild but cannot be released due to various injuries to various species. It’s an opportunity to teach kids and adults about wildlife in person. Current ambassadors include owls and turtles.
Blandford Nature Center also features a working farm, whose organic produce is sold at a local farmers market.
It’s also the focus of favorite events, from the Sugarbush Festival to the Harvest Festival to Bands at Blandford.
“Blandford is so special just because you do get to get out in nature, but you're within the city limits and really in a pretty populated area,” says Baxter. “It's really nice to kind of escape that and feel like you're really far out, but you're actually just still in Grand Rapids.”
Blandford Nature Center, 1715 Hillburn Avenue NW, Grand Rapids 616-735-6240