Ruby, the infamous red tailed hawk, keeps several wildlife friends company as dusk descends on the compound. Scenic viewing of these and other forest creatures can be glimpsed from the Interpretive Center's Lookout and Boardwalk.
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It was hot in the city and through the heat waves of the asphalt and cement, over the cacophony of sirens and diesel engines revving for position on the US-131, my epiphany hit me like a wall of fire…why not visit a long forgotten sanctuary where I spent many an expedition so many years ago?
An oasis of quiet, cool solitude awaited me as I wound my way from the most southern city region to the northwest side of town. What would I find this particular evening as I entered the estate from the Blue Heron trail which leads enticingly from the entrance gates?
Blandford Nature Center, 143 forested acres located smack dab in the suburbs, is still a thriving place to wander, learn, and marvel at the treasures this Grand Rapids’ gem has to offer. I took gleeful pleasure walking the cushioned woodchip path which led me through hardwoods, evergreens and the evening’s shadows towards the Interpretive Center. Since I arrived after hours, it was a quiet walk and yet, I encountered a group of trekkers, a family of four and a dog with his owner.
Revived and invigorated, I chose to continue my stroll on the Wildlife Trail and was pleasantly surprised to find an old friend, Ruby the red tailed hawk, still on the premises where she’s been since her rescue in 1987. Ruby, along with other caged wildlife creatures, were enjoying the cooler evening temps and an absence of humans.
Less than a mile long each, there are eleven trails with varying degrees of hills, steps, bumps and smooth, flat environments. Continuing on the West Loop, I eventually came upon the Sugar House, General Store, Smoke House, Log Cabin, Blacksmith Shop, the 150 year old schoolhouse and toured the many garden plots. The memories came flooding back; what a reunion.
After returning home, I grew curious as to the administrative side of the center over the years, so I checked out their website and discovered Blandford merged five years ago with an organization called Mixed Greens and in 2008, became an independent, charitable nonprofit, with Mixed Greens becoming an educational program offered at the center. Their mission is to educate our community to understand the environment and our connection to natural systems. Their purpose is to engage people to actively use natural spaces, become stewards of nature, and to empower everyone to embrace new perspectives and sustainable practices of natural resources and nature in its purest form. Through educational programs, community activities and with acres of woodlands, meadows and wetlands as a backdrop, Blandford Nature Center hopes to further develop and strengthen innovative approaches to delivering outdoor educational programming in our distinct urban setting in Grand Rapids.
I urge you to visit or re-visit the Blandford Nature Center and discover what an impact it will make in your life. Take a look at their website for great information and a calendar of seasonal events which are numerous and ongoing. YouTube videos such as this one, further the center’s message. The good folks at Blandford are always looking for volunteers, as well as visitors, to enjoy, learn and grow. However you choose to become part of the Blandford family, I hope to meet you on the trails.
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