GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Blandford Nature Center is celebrating the opening of its new Mary Jane Dockeray Visitor Center this weekend.
On Saturday, April 22, the outdoor nature center will host a grand opening event for the public.
The new visitor center is named after the nature center’s founder, Mary Jane Dockeray, who recently celebrated her 90th birthday in the new auditorium.
“It’s just amazing how far we’ve come,” Dockeray said. “I would have never imagined. Blandford has always been an important part of Grand Rapids, but now we’re really blossoming. I can’t wait to see what’s next.”
The visitor center is an 11,000-square-foot, LEED-certified addition to the nature center. It touts a lobby, auditorium, outdoor amphitheater and an upgraded Wildlife Education Center that houses the center’s wildlife ambassadors.
“When people see our new building, some are surprised that there aren’t more displays like you would typically see at a museum or old-style nature center,” said Jennifer Brown, the center’s director of programs and services.
“That’s intentional,” Brown said. “We encourage our visitors to find more exciting things outdoors.”
Many of the decorative wood features in the new center came from trees in the nature center harvested as part of the construction process.
Dockeray and Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss will speak during the grand opening ceremony at 1 p.m. Saturday. Tours of the new facility and a ribbon cutting are also scheduled that day.
“We appreciate the support of everyone who has made this project possible,” said Jason Meyer, president of Blandford Nature Center. “From our volunteers to our donors to our community partners, their help has made this a dream come true.”
Supporters of the new visitor center project include the Wege Foundation, the Meijer Foundation, Mary Jane Dockeray and over 450 other donors.
The original visitor center will be renamed the Peter M. Wege Environmental Education Center. Work on that transformation is ongoing.