The Nature Center, a.k.a. “Nature Nook,” at the North Lakeland Discovery Center (NLDC) in Manitowish Waters has been renovated and its new look was unveiled to the public at a ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday.
The Nature Center is an exploratory, museum, library, and information center all wrapped into a single room.
And with its vibrant and extensive collection of animal mounts and live creatures, when entering the Nature Nook, one feels as if they are still outside in the Northwoods, because much of what can be seen locally in the wild is represented at the Nature Center.
There are displays of mounted owls, waterfowl, and mammals like bears and beavers and weasels, and there are live turtles, snakes, and salamanders, even bats, that call the Nature Center home.
Accompanying all the displays is a wealth of information about the wildlife.
In addition to the animals, there are two library’s — an adult lending library with nature-based literature and trail books, as well as a kids library.
There is also a hand-on station full of pelts, bones, skulls, and shells visitors can pick up and touch, and there is a station, equipped with microscopes, for children to utilize as they explore the objects.
There is also a space for a rotating or seasonal display. Currently there is a dissected bird’s nest revealing all the individual materials that a bird uses to build its home.
Additionally, there is a station dedicated to Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) awareness which informs visitors about AIS in the Northwoods.
There is also a store at the Nature Center which sells NLDC T-shirts, hats, and a variety of nature themed gifts.
With so much going on at the Nature Center, organization and layout of the displays was crucial so that each exhibit had space distinct from the others, and, according to NLDC naturalist and education director Licia Johnson, the renovations achieved that. Those renovations included a complete reorganization of existing shelves, tables, and cabinets, the construction of new custom shelving and tables, the installation of brand new flooring, and freshly painted walls.
“It’s more usable. It’s less crowded,” Johnson said. “We have so many great specimens that originally it was just so much on the wall and so much on the counters you just didn’t know what you were looking at, and so now we kind of have it spaced out better. It’s got better flow when people come in. “
NLDC trails and grounds coordinator Ryan Wahlgren custom built the new shelving, and a crew of volunteers did the renovations, a process that also included moving hundreds of items out of the Nature Center and then back it when the room was completed.
“He had an awesome group of volunteers,” Johnson said.
The funding needed for the project also came by way of volunteer donations as part of an annual Fund-a-Wish fundraising event.
“Each year our staff chooses something extra that we’d like to get funded, like a special project or a special item,’’ Johnson said.
This year the renovations to the Nature Center was on the wish list.
“So people donated to that fund so we were able to pay for the renovation,” Johnson said.
The Nature Center is a capsule of everything the NLDC offers to explore, and Johnson said it often serves as introduction to the programming, hiking trips, canoeing trips, and other outdoor activities that take place at the NLDC.
“It’s really one of the first places that people come to when they stop in for the first time,” Johnson said. “So it’s the first introduction to who we are as an organization and what we do and what we offer, and so it’s so nice now to have something that is clean and fresh and easy to engage with.”
From wall to wall and floor to ceiling, the new look Nature Center at the NLDC is full of natural wonders to explore and it sets the perfect atmosphere to do so. It feels as close to the outdoors as the indoors can be and that fits right into the NLDC’s philosophy.
“Our mission is to connect people to the natural world basically any way we can,” Johnson said.
For more information on the North Lakeland Discovery Center and the Nature Center visit discoverycenter.net
Jacob Friede may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]