Howard Christensen Nature Center

Art of nature found at Howard Christensen Nature Center

November 24, 2011 // 0 Comments

Do you see beauty in a snow-covered landscape, or does it simply make you want to head to a warmer climate? Many people, even the “snowbirds,” see beauty in nature. During November and December, the Howard Christensen Nature Center (HCNC) is hosting several workshops and a quilt raffle that are inspired by nature’s beauty. The Rockford Sportsman’s Club is again showing their support for the educational programs at the nature center by sponsoring the third annual quilt raffle. The prizes for the raffle include a wildlife-themed quilted wall hanging by Sandy Afton, a framed “sand dune” print by Jeanne Rockett, and a 60-inch wreath created by Kare Greenup. A raffle ticket costs $5, with all proceeds going to the nature center, which is located on 135 acres in the Rogue River State Game Area. Raffle tickets can be purchased from Shawn and Barb Blough at the Rockford Sportsman’s Club, at Independent Bank in Sparta, and at the nature center during upcoming events and regular office hours. Kare Greenup, a HCNC naturalist/floral designer, is leading a nature-inspired workshop for children in kindergarten through fifth grade. On Saturday, Dec. 3, children can attend a “Holiday Make and Take Workshop” from 9 to 11 a.m., where they’ll make eight unique gifts and wrap them with the assistance of volunteers. The cost is $12 per child, and your children’s holiday shopping is done! Register in advance by calling (616) 675-3158, so there will be enough supplies for each child. December 10 is the date to get outside and see the beauty of nature first hand. In the morning, from 9 a.m. to noon, attend the “Leave No Family Inside: Winter Survival Workshop,” where naturalist Tom Noreen will teach ways to stay warm outside, including fire starting and shelter building. Winters in Michigan can be ever changing, so being properly prepared for outdoor adventure is important. He’ll also discuss a variety of adaptations that allow animals to survive Michigan’s winters. The cost is $6 per person or $10 per family, with registration and payment due December 4. At 7:00 p.m. on December 10, the raffle drawing will be held just prior to the start of the “Full Moon Workshop and Hike.” Jeanne Ausema will lead a short indoor program about […]

Wolverine Worldwide employees help build new trail at nature center

November 3, 2011 // 0 Comments

Birds, chipmunks, deer and most Michiganders have been spending the last warm days of fall preparing for winter. Volunteers at the Howard Christensen Nature Center have been busy too! On October 21, they completed a new trail to benefit cross-country skiers. This extension of the Ranger Trail will allow skiers to avoid the sometimes treacherously icy interpretive center parking lot to reach the Arrowhead Trail. The nature center thanks the employees from the “Outdoor Group” at Wolverine Worldwide in Rockford, and Patrick Wilk who is a student intern from Lake Superior State University, for making the trail possible. Wilk designed and cleared the new trail, which also passes a vernal pond that is a popular destination for students hunting frogs in the spring. Then, seven employees from Wolverine Worldwide spent the day spreading woodchips to finish the trail. Kathy Young, who initiated the volunteer effort, said, “Wolverine Worldwide encourages employees to get outside and help the community. We all have children and wanted to help the nature center. It’s such a great place… so close to home!” The Wolverine Worldwide volunteers also helped staff prepare for the first annual Red Pine 5K Run, which was held on October 23 with 83 runners and walkers. Howard Christensen Nature Center is an independent nonprofit organization operated by Lily’s Fog Pad Inc. Board member Kathy Reed said, “We really appreciate and depend on the hard work of dedicated volunteers like these to continue the wonderful programs that we offer.” In the winter, one popular program at the nature center is snowshoe rental when there is at least six inches of snow. Visit the nature center’s website at for directions, a trail map, details about programs and events, and more, or call the nature center at (616) 675-3158.

Howard Christensen Nature Center offers new events, activities

October 13, 2011 // 0 Comments

Lily’s Frog Pad Inc. staff and volunteers have been busy finding new ways for the community to connect with nature at the Howard Christensen Nature Center (HCNC), which is conveniently located between Cedar Springs and Kent City. Although the natural beauty of the nature center hasn’t changed, several new events and programs for individuals and families are available this fall. Lily’s Frog Pad Inc. manages HCNC and is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, so fundraising is an ongoing endeavor. Proceeds from all fundraisers help keep the nature center buildings open and the trails maintained for school field trips, public workshops and snowshoe days during the winter. On Sunday, Oct. 16, a Bird Seed Sale will be held at Cedar Springs Mill, 112 W. Beech St., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to benefit your birds and HCNC. Another new fundraiser is the first Red Pine 5K Walk, Run & Relay on Sunday, Oct. 23. “Outdoor lovers” of all ages and abilities are invited to enjoy running or walking the flat, scenic, double loop through the nature center on well-marked trails. The race begins at 2 p.m. with refreshments and an award presentation afterward. For participants 19 years old and older the registration fee is $25, and for participants 18 years and younger it is $20. Registration forms and details are available on the website at, and late registration is from noon to 1:30 p.m. on race day. New, fun events for the family include a “one day only” Bike Cyclist Ride on Thursday, Oct. 19 when bikes will be allowed on specially marked trails from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The cost is $5 per adult, $4 per student or senior, or $12 per family. Registration is due by October 16. To end the month and celebrate Halloween, a Night-Owl Walk is scheduled on Saturday, Oct. 29 from 8 to 10 p.m. This is another one-day-only opportunity, since the trails regularly close at dusk. The trails will be lined with jack-o-lanterns for this spooky, family-friendly guided hike. Registration is requested, but not required. The cost is $5 per adult, $4 per student or senior, or $12 per family. Other events scheduled for November and December include workshops about whitetail deer, winter survival and a full-moon […]

Many volunteers needed for HCNC management plan

April 14, 2011 // 0 Comments

Adults, teens, everybody, are you looking for a rewarding volunteer experience? Enthusiastic individuals are needed, who would enjoy volunteering in the great outdoors at Howard Christensen Nature Center (HCNC). Get community service hours for your college resume. Work with friendly naturalists, teach kids about nature, help maintain the trails—whatever your interests, there is a job for you. Learn more at the orientation. Volunteer Day is Saturday, April 23, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. RSVP with Cindy Perski at or call (616) 325-4554 if you plan to attend. Or possibly at this time you cannot volunteer but would like to make a donation to the endeavor? It costs approximately $45,000 a year to run Howard Christensen Nature Center, and this is with only one part-time employee. If you would like to donate, please do so in the name of Lily’s Frog Pad Inc. (the newly formed nonprofit organization that will run HCNC). Contributions can be mailed to 12380 Pine Island Drive, Sparta, MI 49345. Please make checks payable to “Lily’s Frog Pad Inc. in care of Howard Christensen Nature Center DBA.” Volunteer tasks needed include: • cleaning (mopping, dusting, waxing of floors, organization of teaching materials—inside) and desperately need a librarian-type person to organize books; • calling on other volunteers to volunteer; • calling potential donors; • data input and filing; • help at the many fundraisers to come; • help with guiding tours (must know HCNC grounds); • hold a class/teach at HCNC (classes coordinated can have yourself as a paid instructor with partial income going to HCNC); • help create a great newsletter; • outdoor maintenance of trails (physically line trails with fallen tree branches); • help recruit for special events (events listing to come); • schedule event speakers, or be one if you have a special talent/gift; • donate goods or services (bird seed, animal feed, cleaning products, security cameras, inspections of towers, fax machine, laptop computers, trash pickup, pay a month’s electric/propane bill, children’s learning supplies, office supplies, etc.); • Web support (IT systems)—need an excellent designer (website started not finished); • vernal pond monitoring; • fix signs—update and repair—enhance trails; • forestry help—management of invasive plant species or monitoring; • rake leaves, clean debris from paths; • grant-seeking or […]

A phoenix rises from the ashes

March 17, 2011 // 0 Comments

Howard Christensen Nature Center takes steps to reopen by TOM NOREEN A group of about 30 people gathered at the Tyrone Township Hall on March 3 to learn about the progress made in reopening the Howard Christensen Nature Center (HCNC), 16160 Red Pine Dr, Kent City, as its own nonprofit 501(c)3 organization. The center closed in January due to a funding shortage. Cindy Perski, with the assistance of Kathy Reed (former director under the Kent Conservation District), has taken the lead at creating the umbrella organization that would oversee the center. Perski recently retired as CEO of a manufacturing company in Southwest Michigan. After retirement, she sought out Reed to volunteer at HCNC, only to find out that the center was going to close. Perski’s goal is “to give a legacy to our communities, children, to volunteer with a purpose, to give unselfishly, to expect nothing back in return, to leave this life better than I found it. It is an act of responsibility to leave a positive legacy.” She decided to put her words into action and see what she could do to bring the nature center back to life. During the meeting, former director Ranger Steve Mueller gave a brief history of the center and its primary goal of education. The Kent Intermediate School District (KISD) ran the facility from 1976 until it closed in 2005 because of budgetary constraints. The KISD owns the 142-acre facility and would be willing to negotiate a lease with a qualified nonprofit as they did with the Kent Conservation District (KCD). KCD Chair Connie Redding explained that the KCD used the facility to not only provide educational opportunities to school children but as a demonstration site for the services that KCD provides to land owners in the county. She briefed that funding was the primary reason for not renewing their lease. During the four years that the KCD ran HCNC, the center ran a loss of about $30,000. “We will be willing to help and are very supportive of this plan,” said Redding. One attendee asked about the 10-year Forestry Plan and Redding said the plan was still intact and all it needed was an individual or organization to execute it. One of the primary agenda items […]

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