By Katelyn Nettler, Blandford Nature Center
Earth Day 2017 will be a special day of celebration for Blandford Nature Center. On Saturday, April 22, Blandford will host the grand opening of the new Mary Jane Dockeray Visitor Center. All are welcome and the event is free.
Blandford Nature Center’s founder, Dr. Mary Jane Dockeray, recently celebrated her 90th birthday with a small party in the new auditorium.
“It’s just amazing how far we’ve come. I would have never imagined,” said Dockeray. “Blandford has always been an important part of Grand Rapids, but now we’re really blossoming! I can’t wait to see what’s next!”
The 11,000-square-foot, LEED-certified visitor center provides an open and welcoming lobby complete with stone fireplace, a large auditorium, an outdoor amphitheater, and an upgraded Wildlife Education Center that houses Blandford’s “Wildlife Ambassadors.” Many of the wood decorative features came from trees that were harvested as part of the construction process.
“When people see our new building, some are surprised that there aren’t more displays like you would typically see at a museum or old-style nature center,” stated Jennifer Brown, Blandford’s Director of Programs and Services. “That’s intentional. As a nature center that looks forward, we recognize that our visitors spend enough time indoors. We encourage our visitors to find more exciting things outdoors.”
Dockeray and Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss are scheduled to give remarks during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 1:30 p.m., and the grand opening itself will run from 1 to 3 p.m. Tours of the new facility will be available.
Along with Blandford, representatives from 13 other local environmental organizations that together make the Grand Rapids Conservation Collective are scheduled to attend the grand opening celebration. The Collective, which is a semi-annual gathering of like-minded organizations, showcases the work being done across the community on behalf of the environment. Organizations will have materials and activities that demonstrate the role they play in the larger conservation movement in West Michigan.
“We appreciate the support of everyone who has made this project possible. From our volunteers to our donors to our community partners, their help has made this a dream come true,” said Jason Meyer, President and CEO of Blandford.
Meyer said Blandford is continuing work on the original visitor center that is slated to be named the Peter M. Wege Environmental Education Center.
Supporters of the project include the Wege Foundation, the Meijer Foundation, Mary Jane Dockeray, and over 450 other donors from around the world.
About Blandford Nature Center:
Blandford Nature Center’s mission is to engage and empower our community through enriching experiences in nature. We envision a thriving, diverse community that supports a healthy, natural world. This is accomplished through: an active outdoor environmental lab, a team of passionate, knowledgeable people, and a strong link from past to future promoting sustainability. Blandford offers a wide variety of educational and community programs to support this mission. For more information, please visit www.blandfordnaturecenter.org. Blandford Nature Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit.