What’s New at The Nature Center – February 2021

We have lots of irons in the fire these days. The following projects are in the works and on the drawing board. Despite Covid-19 we are pushing ahead with all of these exciting projects.

Our latest Nature Center exhibit, “Native Plants”, located at the top of the stairway, has just been installed. (Photos soon to come!)

On the downstairs level, City crews are putting the finishing touches on our new Nature Center Library. Thanks to a generous grant from the Massengill-DeFriece Foundation the library will soon contain plenty of convenient shelving, comfortable furniture, a computer workstation, and desk space. Most importantly, with the additional funding, we will purchase an extensive collection of new books including reference texts, popular nature guides and other resources, as well as books for children and youth. We will also be subscribing to JSTOR, giving staff and visiting researchers ready access to one of the largest online science journal databases available. With these additions we will have one of the finest natural history libraries in the region.

The staff work-space, research, and collection area is also taking shape; City crews are installing and adding finishing touches. Friends has ordered and received new specialized cabinetry to house and protect our impressive herbarium collection, now named for Ruth Clark. We also have helped the City apply for a Federal grant to purchase specimen cabinets for the Nature Center’s other extensive collections; we should hear in August if we are successful in securing those funds. In conjunction with the grant proposal, we are hoping to set up an internship program for college students to help classify, sort, mount, and catalog all of the specimens held by the Nature Center.

The next exhibit to be designed and built (on the lower level) is “The Park After Dark”. As the name suggests, this will focus on the critters, sights, sounds and smells of Steele Creek Park at night. Many of our Park’s night creatures will be featured in the exhibit: owls, raccoons, bats, opossums, skunks, bull frogs, flying squirrels and fireflies. If you are interested in helping to bring alive the stories of these interesting critters, you can help with a financial contribution to the exhibit.

The last exhibit for the lower level (“Giant Sloth Skeleton”) is waiting for funding. The giant ground sloth was native to our area when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, and this exhibit will showcase the Park during their reign. The addition of this exhibit will complete all the major exhibits planned for inside the Nature Center.

Some of our many “irons in the fire” deal with things outside of the Nature Center. Nearby, and visible from the windows in the Native Plants exhibit, is our Native Plants Garden. The site is now being prepared – dead trees removed, paths designed, and species identified, with new plants to be added by volunteers. We will need new species to expand our diversity, along with labels, signage, and an information kiosk. In short, if you are a plant friendly Friend we can use your help both timewise and financially. 

The Arboretum along and between Steele Creek and Broad Street has been recertified To advance to the next certification level (which we’d love to do!) we need to add to our collection of trees. This is a great way to recognize a Friend of the Park or other loved one by dedicating a tree in their name. Depending on the species of the tree selected, a donation of $200 – $300 will cover the cost of the tree and information plaque.

Other great projects in the works include creating an amphitheater beside the Nature Center to be used as an outside classroom, and installing other outdoor educational classrooms around the Park to complement the Aquatic Lakeside Lab, the demonstration Apiary, and the Quarry Cave area. We can certainly use donations of materials and monetary funding for these important additions.

This is just a brief review of what your Friends organization is doing at Steele Creek Park. We currently have more ideas and plans than funding to pay for them. We don’t take on a project without the money in hand, so we move along project by project enhancing the value of our Park for the citizens of our area.

If you have suggestions for other projects in the park or in a particular area (like Rooster Front, the trails, or the lake) let us know. We realize that we always seem to be coming to you with our hand out, but you have stepped up and supported us tremendously. Just look to see what we have accomplished – a Nature Center and Park that is the envy of the region and the State.


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