The Howell Nature Center is holding its first Community Appreciation Day at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 9.
Community Appreciation Day is an all-day event designed to bring people together to spend time outside and enjoy the Nature Center’s services free of charge.
HNC is Michigan’s largest wildlife rehabilitation center. The organization’s end goal is to rehabilitate every orphaned or injured animal that enters its doors in order to return it to the wild. But animals that are too tame or injured to be released into the wild stay in the spacious wildlife park. The Nature Center also has camps, environmental education, wildlife education and overnight retreat facilities.
“The scope of everything we are making available at Community Appreciation Day is so vast you really can’t experience all of these activities in a typical day,” said Emily De Long, HNC Rangers Day Camp coordinator. “And we will have our excellent staff here to walk you through it.”
“I want the community to feel like the HNC is their nature center and recognize that the HNC is a resource that they can share with us,” said Jessa Lytle, HNC Challenge coordinator.
The HNC is offering free activities at Community Appreciation Day including zip line rides, canoeing, hayrides, tours with wildlife handlers and Heifer Global Village. The HNC is also providing free hot dogs and s’mores.
“I think everyone has an opportunity to connect with this space, from wildlife lovers to adventure seekers,” said Lytle.
The HNC’s High Adventure Program includes zip lines, high ropes courses and Michigan’s tallest outdoor climbing tower. Community Appreciation Day will present guests with the opportunity to experience zip lining through the trees.
“At Community Appreciation Day I want people to realize that we want to share this beautiful property in a unique exciting way that allows people to be thrilled to be outdoors,” said Lytle.
The Nature Center takes in about 2300 injured and orphaned birds and mammals every year. During Community Appreciation Day, wildlife handlers will give the public tours around the wildlife park teaching them about the animals’ tendencies and personalities.
“The wildlife handlers have such a special relationship with the animals and I think that they provide a unique understanding of what it’s like to be a creature that comes through our doors,” said Lytle. “The handlers offer an insight to all of the love, care and connection we have with our animals.”
All Community Appreciation Day attendees will be given the opportunity to canoe.
“It’s an easy hands-on way to observe an aquatic environment; swans, aquatic plants and fish,” said De Long. “There is a stillness to canoeing that you don’t get in any other aquatic sport.”
Guests will also have the option to experience hayrides at this outdoor event.
“Our hayrides take you through six miles of trails; the fastest and easiest way to access all of our property in all of its glory,” said De Long.
At Community Appreciation Day, HNC staff want to remind guests how fun it can be to gather around a campfire.
“S’mores are such a quintessential part of a campfire,” said De Long. “You sing, you learn, you bond around a campfire and roasting a s’more is the perfect way to wrap up that experience.”
Community Appreciation Day will take place the day before Mother’s Day. HNC staff said that the event will serve as an opportunity to spend outdoor time with family doing something out of the ordinary.
“Spring comes with a sense of rebirth; birds are more active, flowers are blooming,” said De Long. “This is our time to begin healing and growing to reach our wildest dreams so this is a perfect time to have this event.”
Community Appreciation Day is unique among past HNC events as it gives guests a chance to gain firsthand experience to learn what the Nature Center does.
“I think that this day provides us with an opportunity to really communicate with the people that we serve, and share our passion for what we have and what we strive to be,” said De Long. “This way, the guests, in turn, can feel passionate about the Nature Center.”