Ottawa County Parks & Recreation
Nature Education Center
8115 West Olive Road, West Olive
Phone: (616) 786-4847
Visit the Nature Education Center, located within Hemlock Crossing Park! The center 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, groups and the public. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm and Sunday from noon to 5 pm. 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.
School, Scout & Other Youth Programs
We believe children are born with an innate sense of wonder about the natural world! Using many senses, we help children unlock the mysteries of nature and science with hands-on, fun educational experiences. School programs enhance and build upon concepts children are learning in the classroom. Programs have also been designed for Scouts to complete their badge requirements. Custom designed programs are also available. Please ask Kristin Hintz for details.
Preregistration or fees are required for some programs. See the descriptions below for details. Call 616-786-4847 to register. Guide Key: KH = Kristin Hintz CD = Curtis Dykstra
Coffee with the Birds
Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. Enjoy a hot cup of coffee or hot chocolate as you spend an hour observing the feeders and discussing birds. CD
- December 6, 10am
- December 7, 10am
Put Another Log on the Fire!
We will have the fireplace roaring on Saturdays and Sundays at the Nature Education Center through February. Com inside and warm up with a hot beverage, available for purchase.
Sunday Family Hour
Bring your family for a story, activity or adventure! Family hours take place at Hemlock Crossing’s Nature Education Center. They are free and registration is not required, but appreciated. Call 616-786-4847. Titles and recommended ages are listed. For detailed descriptions, sign up for Nature E-mail, like us on Facebook or contact the Nature Education Center at 616-786-4847.
- Where do they go? [Ages 6+] December 1, 2PM
- Christmas Trees [Ages 6+] December 8, 2PM
- Family Scavenger Hunt & Walk [Ages 6+] December 15, 2PM
- Terrific Tracks [Ages 6+] December 29, 2PM
- Making Nature Journals [Ages 9+] January 5, 2PM
- Winter Tracks [Ages 6+] January 12, 2PM
- Winter Family Games [Ages 7+] January 19, 2PM
- Staying Warm in Winter [Ages 9+] January 26, 2PM
- Let it Snow [Ages 5+] February 2, 2PM
- Owl Moon [Ages 6+] February 9, 2PM
- Dress Like a Woodpecker [Ages 9+] February 16, 2PM
- Bugsicles: Insects in Winter [Ages 6+] February 23, 2PM
- Sugaring Time. [Ages 6+] March 2, 2PM
- The Mystery Tree [Ages 8+] March 9, 2PM
How to Know Your Holiday Trees
December 14, 2-3:30PM, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. If you refer to all evergreen trees as "pines," then this indoor-outdoor program is for you. Using tree branches, you will differentiate between pines, spruce, firs and more. At the end, you will head out to test your newly acquired skills. KH
Christmas Open House
December 21, 1PM-4PM, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. Need a getaway from the stress of the holidays? Escape to the Nature Education Center to relax to seasonal music, cookies and hot beverages by the decorated Christmas tree. Melt into the couch while you watch the birds at the feeders. CD
Are you craving fresh air and activity after a harried week? Join us for a brisk, hour walk on the peaceful, winter trails.
- December 26, 1PM at Hemlock Crossing
- December 27, 1PM at Pine Bend
The Scoop on Skulls
December 28, 2-3:30PM, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. Skulls can be art, or a mystery laden with clues about an animal's life. During this indoor program, you will use a key to identify skulls of Michigan mammals and examine some of their unique adaptations. Best for adults and older children. KH
Coffee with the Birds
Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. Spend a Saturday morning with a hot beverage, baked good and fellow birders as you observe the feeders. Bring your curiosities and favorite mug. CD
- January 4, 10-11:30AM
- February 1, 10-11:30AM
- March 1, 10-11:30AM
Winter Birding Field Trip
Go beyond your backyard to several wintertime birding hotspots in search of songbirds, waterfowl, and raptors. Free; however, registration is required. Call 616-786-4847. Additional information including meeting location will be emailed to participants prior to the trip. CD
- January 10, 12PM-6PM
- February 7, 12:30PM-6:30PM
The Art of Drawing Trees
January 11, 1-3:30PM, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. Trees have amazing shapes and textures highlighted on a winter's day. You'll begin with an inspirational walk to inspect the unique shapes and textures of trees. Afterwards, art instructor Nancy Berg will teach you basic pen, brush and ink techniques to illustrate winter trees. Best for adults and children nine years or older. Registration plus a $5 fee required. Call 616-786-4847.
Eagles of the Grand
January 18, 2-3:30PM, Connor Bayou. Bald Eagles have become a more common, yet no less majestic sight in Ottawa County. Be inspired by their comeback story and then search for them wintering along the Grand River. CD
Introduction to Stand Up Paddleboarding
January 18, 4-5PM, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. Stand up paddleboarding is a growing sport in Michigan. Staff from The Outpost of Holland will introduce the sport and share the opportunities to explore the Lake Michigan shoreline, inland lakes and rivers. They will even have a variety of boards for you to examine.
January 25, 2-3:30PM, Riverside Park. You will enjoy this trek on the peninsula observing winter activities along the Grand River. Dress warmly and be prepared for walking on varied trails. Meet at the lower parking lot by the trailhead. KH
January 25, 7-8:30PM, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. Hercules is back! Will he win the nightly battles? Hear the Shoreline Amateur Astronomical Association’s Doug Mandrick describe the constellations and the legends behind them. If skies are clear, dress warmly and bring a mug of cocoa as you tour the skies after the program.
February 8, 2-3:30PM, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. Learn about wildlife tracking during this indoor-outdoor program. Bundle up for a walk to look for wildlife clues and learn the stories behind them. In the event of no snow, we will have an indoor presentation and alternate tracking activities.
Winter Snowshoe Walk
February 15, 10AM-12PM, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. During this hike, you will see the sights by snowshoe as a naturalist guides the way. Free; however, registration is required. If you cannot make this walk, note that snowshoes are available to rent from the Nature Center and Pigeon Creek Lodge, so try the activity another time. CD
Book Club with Melanie
February 19, 9:30-10:30AM, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. Join Natural Resources Coordinator, Melanie Manion, to discuss the book Hope is the Nature Wars by Jim Sterba. Beverages and snacks will be provided. Free; however, registration is required. Call 616-786-4847.
A Close-Up Look at Twigs
February 22, 2-4PM, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. During the winter, twigs have unique characteristics including buds, bundle scars and leaf scars. These features are useful to identify plants. This program, for adults and older children, will begin indoors inspecting twigs followed by a hike to survey the trees. Free and registration is not required, but appreciated. KH
February 22, 7-8:30PM, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. Stars, like people, go through cycles: birth, life and death. Jim Reier of the Shoreline Amateur Astronomical Association describes this and tells how astronomers classify the stages of a star’s life.
Isle Royale: From Bucket List to Wonderful Adventure
March 8, 2-3:30PM, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. Naturalists Kelly Morrisey and Kristen Hintz share their adventures backpacking Isle Royale (with a nine year old). This presentation is filled with beautiful pictures, natural history, plus anecdotal stories and tips to prepare for your own trip. Special guest, Kayla Hintz, will share some of her backpacking stories from the perspective of a nine year old. This presentation is for all ages and all interests. You don't have to be a backpacker to enjoy the show.
Parks Administration Office
12220 Fillmore St.
West Olive, MI 49460
8:00am - 5:00pm
Fax: (616) 738-4812
(888) 731-1001 ext.4810
General Park Hours*March 1 - October 15
7:00am - 10:00pm
October 16 - February 28
7:00am - 8:00pm