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Exploring Kalamazoo's Biggest Hidden Gem

Kalamazoo Nature Center

North of Kalamazoo, sits one of our community’s most valuable resources. We are of course referring to the Kalamazoo Nature Center (KNC). At 1,200 acres, the membership-based nonprofit features a variety of habitats for visitors to explore. Despite this sheer size, the KNC is often referred to as a “hidden gem” by many in the community.

“It is one of the country’s largest nature centers and has a reputation for leadership in research, education, and conservation,” KNC’s Lisa Panich, Director, Marketing and Communications, shared. “We provide a safe environment for individuals to experience nature and get nice big doses of stress reduction and Inspiration.”

With 14 nature trails that vary in intensity, visitors can walk or run at their own pace. Now that we are in the throes of spring, there is the added benefit of seeing some of the area’s most unique wildflowers bloom while hearing the melodies of migrating songbirds.

In addition to these magical encounters, the KNC provides educational camps for youth and programs for people of all ages with subjects that range from habitats to the stages of plant life. A farming camp that teaches about sustainable agriculture will also be added to this year’s programs.

“The goal of these initiatives is to provide experiences that connect people with nature,” Panich explained.

With Earth Day approaching, nature enthusiasts have a perfect opportunity to make such a connection. On Saturday, April 24, the KNC will offer free general admission, all-ages activities, and registration- and fee-based guided hikes. Interested parties can find more information on the KNC’s event page.

As far as what is planned for the KNC’s future, Panich revealed that important renovations are underway.

“Due to COVID-19 health restrictions, we had to temporarily close our visitor center,” she said. “We decided to take advantage of the situation by remodeling the building.”

As a nonprofit organization that relies on membership and visitor fees to support its operations and research, this closure could have presented a challenge. Luckily, the implementation of reduced admission rates for visitors and the ability to social distance while enjoying the KNC have attracted guests and members despite the remodeling.

Admission is free for KNC members and children ages 3 and under, $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, and $3 for children ages 4-17.

With such a robust slate of programs combined with low admission prices, there has never been a better time to experience Kalamazoo’s biggest “hidden gem.”

Interested in donating or volunteering? Visit the organization’s website to find out more!

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