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Ottawa County Parks & Recreation

Nature Education Center

8115 West Olive Road, West Olive
Phone: (616) 786-4847

Nature Center

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.


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 programs, 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.

Programs

Fall Calendar of Programs

View Calendar (PDF)

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

Weekend Hikes

Take a hike with a naturalist and experience the sights and sounds of a variety of Ottawa County Parks. You may be surprised at what you see along the way. All of the Saturday hikes are at Hemlock Crossing Park.

  • Saturday, August 23, 10-11:30AM, Hemlock Crossing Park
  • Sunday, August 24, 2-3:30PM, Mt Pisgah
  • Sunday, August 31, 2-3:30PM, Crockery Creek Natural Area

Beach Zone

August 23, 1-4PM, Kirk Park. Enjoy the beach and stop by the Beach Zone tent to participate in activities designed to help kids enjoy and learn about dunes. Adults must accompany children during these activities. Free, however parking fees apply. Cancelled in rain or high winds.

Star Gazing

August 23, 9-10:30PM, Hemlock Crossing. Join the Shoreline Astronomical Association for an informal night with the stars. Telescopes will be available. Bring a lawn chair, dress to be outside and bring some mosquito repellant. If you have your own telescope or binoculars, feel free to bring them too.

Lewis Cross, the Painter of Passenger Pigeons: September 4, 7-8PM, Hemlock Crossing. Wally Ewing and Marjie Viveen will present a program on the life of Lewis Cross, local legend and artist best known for depicting Passenger Pigeons on canvas. Two examples can be seen at the Nature Education Center.

Understanding Extinction

September 6, 1-2PM, Hemlock Crossing. When you hear the word "extinction," do you think of dinosaurs? This term may ring a bit closer to home after hearing the story of the Passenger Pigeon and participating in activities geared to help kids understand extinction.

Passengers of the Pigeon River: September 6, 3-4PM, Hemlock Crossing. Do you know how the Pigeon River got its name? Hear the story of this once indescribably abundant bird and what led to its extinction 100 years ago.

Kayak Trip-Passengers of the Pigeon River

September 13, 9:30AM-12:30PM, Hemlock Crossing. Paddle a 3.5 mile stretch of the Pigeon River and learn its history. Return transportation is via carpool. No experience is needed. The fee is $8 per person plus $26 if renting kayak, paddle and life jacket. Preregistration is required. Details will be sent prior to the trip.

A Sad Fate-The Passenger Pigeon

September 18, 7-8PM, Hemlock Crossing. Kyle Bagnall, Historian and Michigan Coordinator of Project Passenger Pigeon, shares records of early explorers, missionaries and traders, and uncovers tales of the last “grand nesting” in Petoskey in 1878. This multimedia presentation features historic lithographs, paintings and photos that follow this tragic story from our past in an effort to help build a sustainable future.

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 person will be collected at the door for those who preregister. A $2 per person 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.
  • September 7: Understanding Extinction
  • September 14: Spiders
  • September 21: Migratory Miracles
  • September 28: Look at What I Did with a Leaf
  • October 5: Things with Wings
  • October 12: The Bee's Knees
  • October 19: Meet a Tree
  • October 26: Look without Seein
  • November 2: Tales of Foxes
  • November 9: Terrific Turkeys
  • November 16: Raven about Crows
  • November 23: Go Nuts
  • November 30: Busy Beavers
  • December 7: Branches & Twig Art

Warbler Walks

Various Dates, 8-10AM, Various Locations. September is to warblers in fall as May is to them in spring. The difference is that they wear drab plumages and don't sing. This makes them more elusive and a challenge to ID, yet worth the effort!
  • September 10 & September 20, Grand Ravines North
  • September 24, Mt. Pisgah (Note: Strenuous Stairs)

After the Harvest Hike

September 13, 2-4PM, Riley Trails. We'll explore Riley Trails to see the effects of the red pine harvest in 2012 and restoration work in 2013. Binoculars recommended.

Coastal Plain Marsh Excursion: September 13, 6-8PM, Port Sheldon Natural Area. Want to learn more about one of Michigan's rarest ecosystems? Join this off-trail excursion into the second largest park property. Binoculars recommended.

Autumn Walks

Various Dates, 10-11:30AM, Various Locations. Explore a new park and observe the subtle changes as plants and animals prepare for the winter season.
  • September 17, Kirk Park
  • September 24, Macatawa Greenspace
  • October 1, Mt. Pisgah (Meet at Black Lake East)
  • October 15, Rosy Mound Natural Area
  • October 22, Connor Bayou
  • October 29, Pigeon Creek
  • November 12, Riverside Park

Fall Fungus Hike

September 20, 9AM-Noon, Hemlock Crossing. Join expert, Dennis Dunlap, to seek and identify a variety of mushrooms and other fungi. Preregistration required by September 18.

Leaf Collecting Workshop: September 20, 2-4PM, Hemlock Crossing. Leaf collections can seem daunting. Using a simple key, ID can be made more easily. Students ten years old and up will enjoy collecting leaves responsibly and identifying trees by their leaves. Free; however preregistration is required by September 16.

Raptor Watch: September 21, 1-4PM, Mt. Pisgah. Many raptors follow the Lake Michigan shoreline as they migrate south. Join us as we climb Mt. Pisgah's stairs to spot these birds of prey. Program length will depend on the weather and the birds. Bring drinking water and binoculars. Some loaners will be available.

Gardening for Monarchs & More: September 25, 7-8PM, Hemlock Crossing. The monarch butterfly, the nation's most recognized insect, has declined 90 percent since the 1990s. Learn how you can save the planet, starting in your own back yard, in a fun and beautiful way.

Super Spiders

September 27, 2PM-3:30PM, Hemlock Crossing. Spiders are more than eight-legged predators! After an introduction to common groups of spiders and their unique ways of living, we'll get outside to investigate common spider habitats.

Famous Spacecraft

September 27, 7-8:30PM, Hemlock Crossing. The Voyager 1 Spacecraft is the most distant human-made object and the only one to break free of our solar system. Along with its twin, Voyager 2, the spacecraft set off on a historic journey in 1977. Learn about the record-breaking mission and its earth-shattering discoveries from Shoreline Astronomical Association member Peter Burkey. A sky viewing will follow if conditions permit.

Searching for Sparrows

Various Dates, 8-10AM, Various Locations. Search through meadows and along forest edges in hopes of flushing migrating sparrows from their hiding holes deep in the brush. The terrain may be wet from heavy dew, so rubber boots or hip waders are recommended.

  • October 1 & October 4, Macatawa Greenspace
  • October 15, Eastmanville Farm

Crockery Creek by Kayak

October 4, 1-4PM, Connor Bayou. Venture down Crockery Creek to the Grand River and Connor Bayou while your guide describes natural and historical features along the way. The fee is $8 per person plus $26 if renting kayak, paddle and life jacket. Some kayaking experience is recommended. Preregistration is required. Details will be sent prior to the trip.

Colors by Kayak

October 8, 1-4:30PM, Hemlock Crossing. Bask in the fall colors along the Pigeon River by kayak. No experience is needed. The fee is $8 per person plus $26 if renting kayak, paddle and life jacket. Preregistration is required. Details will be sent prior to the trip.

Family Camping Program

October 10, 5PM-October 11, 10AM. Pigeon Creek. Celebrate autumn with a family fun overnight with Parks staff. Highlights include outdoor games, skits, songs, s'mores and a hike. Dinner and breakfast are included with the cost. Tents and sleeping pads are available to borrow or you can bring your own. Preregistration required by October 5. Fee is $25 per adult and $5 per child.

Galls & Goldenrods

October 11, 2-3:30PM, Hemlock Crossing. What is a gall and why is it found on goldenrods? How many goldenrod species are found at Hemlock Crossing? Learn the characteristics of a few species and discover the intricate relationships on and around this common wildflower found in our meadows, stream banks and forests.

Gabagouache on the Grand

October 18, Choice of Noon, 1:30PM & 3PM, Connor Bayou. Step back in time. Paddle on the Grand River as a fur trader from the 1700s via the ten person canoe. Each session lasts one hour. Preregistration required. The fee is $5 per person.

Photo Excursion Workshop

October 25, 10AM-3:30PM, Hemlock Crossing. Beginnings and advanced amateurs alike will improve their skill under the instruction of Mark Carlson and Bob Grzesiak. More details and registration information is available at greatlakesphototours.com or by calling 989-723-3365.

Space Telescopes

October 25, 7-8:30PM, Hemlock Crossing. Have you ever seen images from space and wonder how they capture so much detail? Many are composite images that were taken in different wavelengths of light. Jim Reier of the Shoreline Astronomical Association looks at the history of space telescopes designed to reveal all the different parts of the spectrum. Join us as it all comes together, when we combine many wavelengths in composite images revealing more to space than meets the eye.

Waterfowl Field Trip

October 31 & November 7, 8AM-4PM, North Beach Park. Witness the spectacle of waterfowl migration along the Lake Michigan shoreline and at other local hot spots including the well-known Muskegon Waste Water Facility. Preregistration is required.

Hike into the Night

November 8, 7-8:30PM, Hemlock Crossing. Enjoy the night air, listen to animals and observe Hemlock Crossing from a different perspective as we walk the moon-lit trails.

Hemlock Bird Hikes

November 1 & November 5, 9-10:30AM, Hemlock Crossing. As fall migration winds down, we'll focus on finding some of the later migrants and newly arriving winter residents.

Managing Maps & Conquering Compasses

November 15, 2-4PM, Hemlock Crossing. Love them or hate them, maps and compasses impact our lives daily. Students ages ten and up will learn how to read maps and compasses. Preregistration required.

Leaves & Trees & Fun with Seeds

November 22, 2-3:30PM, Hemlock Crossing. What can you do with leaves and seeds that you find on the ground? This program will focus on a variety of activities families can do together as they enjoy autumn excursions.

Meteor Showers

November 22, 7-8:30PM, Hemlock Crossing. Those bright, short-lived flashes of light we can see almost every night are called meteors. Meteor showers are visible for a few nights at a given time of the year and seem to come from a particular portion of the sky. Join Frank Roldan of the Shoreline Astronomical Association as he shares their histories, sources and tips for best observing them.

All About Owls

November 29, 2-4PM, Hemlock Crossing. Whooo can name and identify all of Michigan's owls? Describe how they hunt at night? Say that they've dissected an owl pellet? Yooou will after attending this program. Preregistration required.

Owl Prowl

November 29, 6:30-8PM, Pigeon Creek. After meeting in the Lodge for an introduction to the owls of Ottawa County, you’ll quietly prowl the woods to encounter them first-hand.

Plant Skeletons

December 6, 2-3:30PM, Hemlock Crossing. Where do all the wildflowers go? Explore what remains when the colorful spring and summer flowers have faded and gone to seed.

 

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.