Blandford Nature Center seeks donations, offers wildlife and learning to community

	GVL / Anya Zentmeyer

Anya Zentmeyer

GVL / Anya Zentmeyer

Ellie Phillips

Tucked away at the very end of Hillburn Avenue, behind the Highlands Golf Club in Grand Rapids, is the Blandford Nature Center, a 143-acre plot of land that is home to 30 permanent wildlife residents; including hawks, owls, and a bobcat. Located just a little over 10 miles from Grand Valley State University’s Allendale campus, Blandford Nature Center boasts hiking trails, an Interpretive Center, a wig-wam, a special wildlife trail exhibiting the larger wildlife that reside on the center’s grounds, a rehabilitation center, a cabin and one-room-schoolhouse, both 150 years old.

“The Center’s mission is “to educate, engage, and empower our community to become stewards of the natural world that sustains us,” said Blandford’s Executive Director, Anneosjka Steinman, who has been working with the center for just under three years. “No day is ever boring. One minute I could be out with a US Fish and Wildlife rep. trudging through the meadow…the next day I could be meeting with a donor trying to secure some funding for a project.”

Established 44 years ago in 1968, Blandford Nature Center began as part of the Museum Association, and in 2003 was transferred to the Grand Rapids Public School system due to budget cuts. Threatened yet again by budget cuts, in 2007 the Center merged with an organization called Mixed Greens, and in 2008 became the independent, nonprofit organization that it is today.

The land was mostly farmland when it became the Blandford Nature Center, and one of it’s ongoing projects has been working diligently to allow the land to revert back to its natural state. This involves fighting against invasive species of plants that encroach upon the land and and replanting of native species such as beech and sugar maple trees, which provide the syrup the center makes and sells in the fall.

The wildlife trail that is home several large owls, hawks and a bobcat who was previously owned as an illegal pet and declawed, is an outdoor, handicap accessible boardwalk in the woods with large pens for the larger permanent wildlife residents, is a place where people can learn the histories of those specific animals, and about their species in general. Though the actual rehabilitation of animals is not open to public view, the animals that reside on the center’s grounds are open to view indoors and out.

The nature center also has a volunteer program, which asks participants to help build wood duck boxes that increase the population of Wood Duck’s on site and pulling up the invasive species Mossy Buck Thorn from the meadow area, among other projects.
“We’re always looking for volunteers that want to have hands-on activity in the outdoors,” Steinman said.

The funding for Blandford Nature Center comes mostly from government grants and donations, though they do charge schools a $3 fee per child to host the field trips for K-9 students. With a small farm, community garden and blacksmith shop, Blandford aims to offer interactive learning about connecting and caring for nature, using their historical buildings for “Pioneer Programs,” and use their wig-wam to teach students about Native American hunting practices, activities and culture.

“Most (of the people in the community) have Blandford in their hearts,” Steinman said, “but we also need them to have Blandford in their wallets, and be willing to donate money so that we can continue to provide a service for the entire community.”
For more information on the Blandford Nature Center or how to give back to the community through donations and/or volunteer work, visit their website at or call them at (616)-735-6240.

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