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Ottawa County Parks & Recreation

Nature Education Center

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8115 West Olive Road, West Olive
616) 786-4847

Hours: Tuesday - Saturday: 9am-5pm
Sunday: Noon-5pm Closed Mondays

Directions: From US 31, travel west on Croswell Street to West Olive Road. Turn south on West Olive Road and travel a 1/2 mile to the entrance on the west side.

The Nature Education Center , located within Hemlock Crossing Park, has exhibits, a wildlife den with critters and activities, a wildlife viewing area where you can watch birds and animals at the feeders, and a gift shop. The center also hosts a variety of educational programs for schools, special groups and the public.

Reserving the Nature Education Center

Please call the Nature Education Center at (616) 786-4847 schedule a visit, inquire about availability and make your reservation. This packet provides critical information you should know before you rent, plus helpful considerations while planning your event. To rent other facilities within the parks, please visit Rental Facilities.

School Programs

Looking for a memorable, educational outdoor experience for your pre-k through high-school students? Look no further than the Nature Education Center. Our school programs enhance your students’ learning with experiences which cannot be duplicated in a classroom. The educational field-trips are designed to meet your students at the appropriate cognitive level and can even be adapted to incorporate the subject matter you are currently studying. Year-round programs are available. If distance is an issue, there is bound to be a park near you where we can accommodate your class. Contact us today.

Special Group Programs

We offer memorable educational programs for daycares, scouts, churches, home schools, seniors and more! Educational and recreational programs can be adapted to meet your group’s need. Year-round programs are available. Contact us today.


Calendar of Programs

View Larger Calendar

Preregistration or fees are required for some programs. See the descriptions below for details. Call (616) 786-4847 to register.

Sunday Family Programs

Various Dates, 2-3:30PM, Hemlock Crossing. These programs are designed for families with children ages five and up. Preregistration is required at least two days in advance. A fee of $1 per child will be collected at the door for those who preregister. A $2 per child fee will be charged for late registrants and walk-ins. Due to space limitations, we may not be able to accommodate walk-in guests. For detailed descriptions, like us on Facebook, sign up for NaturE-mail or call the Nature Education Center..
  • December 21: Winter Wonder Walk
  • December 28: Fireside Storytime
  • January 4: Winter Scavenger Hunt
  • January 11: The Secret Language of Snow
  • January 18: Curious About Coyotes
  • January 25: Critter Clues
  • February 8: Raccoons Rock
  • February 15: Calling All Owls
  • February 22: Pondering Porcupines
  • March 1: Scat & Tracks
  • March 8: Signs of Spring

Coffee with the Birds

Various Saturdays, 10-11:30AM, Hemlock Crossing. Enjoy a cup of coffee and some baked goods as you observe the feeders and discuss various birding topics with a naturalist. Bring your questions, curiosities, stories and favorite mug.

  • January 10
  • February 14
  • March 14

Wildlife Encounters

Various Dates, 3-4PM, Hemlock Crossing. Thanks to nature shows and the internet, we know more about animals in other countries than those in our region. These 30-minute, mixed-media presentations will provide insight and appreciation for the wildlife found in our own yards, parks and state. An optional guided nature hike will follow each program.

  • December 27: Squirrels
  • January 10: Bears
  • January 17: River Otters
  • January 24: Mink
  • February 21: Fox
  • March 7: Barred Owl

Winter Break Fun

December 30, 1-4PM, Hemlock Crossing. Keep your kids engaged and active during the holiday season.  The Ottawa County Parks Nature Education Center will have plenty of indoor and outdoor activities for all to enjoy during this open house event including crafts, snowshoe walks, winter investigations and much more. Watch for details in the NaturE-mail and on Facebook.  

Snowshoe Hikes

Various Dates, 2-4PM, Various Locations. Explore the parks by snowshoe as a naturalist guides the way. Preregistration required; snowshoe rentals available for a fee of $6.

  • December 31, Upper Macatawa Natural Area-84th Ave
  • February 7, Macatawa Greenspace
  • February 28, Pine Bend

Winter Open House

January 3, 1-4PM, Hemlock Crossing. Start the New Year with activities, music and refreshments at the Nature Education Center. Along with children's activities, there will  be display boards and staff to talk with about new developments and projects happening in 2015.  Local band, Moxie Strings, will be playing toe-tapping music as part of the entertainment. Watch for details in the NaturE-mail and on Facebook.

International Dark-Sky Association

January 24, 7-8:30PM, Hemlock Crossing. The International Dark-Sky Association is an organization dedicated to the preservation of dark sky areas and the reduction of unnecessary and inefficient lighting throughout the world. The talk will cover their efforts and successes.

Winter Birding Field Trips

Various Dates, 10AM-5PM. Go beyond your backyard to explore several birding hotspots in search of winter songbirds, waterfowl, and raptors. Preregistration and a $20 fee required. Additional information and meeting location will be emailed to participants prior to the trip.

  • Saturday, January 31
  • Friday, February 6

Ski Waxing Clinic

February 1, 3-4PM, Hemlock Crossing. Do my cross-country skis need wax? What kind of wax? When and how do I apply wax? Ski instructor Jeff Faber will cover these ski waxing fundamentals and more followed by a live demonstration of the waxing process. He will focus more on the glide waxing technique, but will also touch on kick waxing for classic skiing.

Ground-based Telescopes

February 28, 7-8:30PM, Hemlock Crossing. Advances in glass technology and manufacturing enable today’s astronomers to build larger, multi-mirror telescopes.  These instruments are being installed in areas of the world which are as high as possible and free of light pollution.

Owls of Ottawa Field Trip

March 4, 4-9PM. Join us to search for a variety of owls inhabiting Ottawa County in winter.  Preregistration and $20 fee required. Additional information and meeting location will be emailed to participants prior to the trip. Save March 5th as a back-up date.


April 11, 10AM-4PM, Hemlock Crossing. A Herpathon™ is a volunteer event to identify amphibian and reptile diversity and distribution within Michigan’s unique landscapes. Information is provided to the Michigan Herp Atlas and the Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Commission. This information will be used to assess the distribution and richness of reptiles in areas where data is lacking and aid in best management strategies. The program includes a briefing on Michigan’s amphibian and reptile species, a lesson on the Herp Atlas, and how to submit observations. Adults and children 12+ are encouraged regardless of your level of expertise. Free but preregistration is required.

Lyme Disease-What All Nature Enthusiasts Should Know 

April 18, 12-4PM, Hemlock Crossing. Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases are an emerging concern in western Lower Michigan. This program will discuss the ecology of ticks, the current knowledge of impacts on Michigan citizens and the prevention of tick-borne diseases. This information will be valuable to anyone who works or plays in natural areas in West Michigan.

Parks Administration Office

Room 267
12220 Fillmore St.
West Olive, MI 49460
Monday - Friday:
8:00am - 5:00pm
Phone: (616) 738-4810
Fax: (616) 738-4812
In Ottawa County:
(888) 731-1001 ext.4810

General Park Hours*

March 1 - October 15
7:00am - 10:00pm
October 16 - February 28
7:00am - 8:00pm
*Some parks close in winter or have hours that vary. Select each park for specific park hours.