Tucked away in a corner of Chautauqua County, a visit to the Jamestown Audubon Center is well worth the effort. The 600 acre sanctuary has a little something for everyone.
The land is beautiful, and bustling with wildlife. There's also a visitor's center with plenty of interesting things to explore. Education is the key at the center, and they approach their philosophy from many angles.
Jennifer Schlick is the center's Program Director.
"Our mission here is to connect people with nature and also to promote and to model environmental stewardship," Schlick said. "We try to do that in a variety of ways, from just the way we present things in the building, the way we do business from day to day, but also sometimes we teach specific things."
The land perhaps is the primary educator, surrounding the center with a lush classroom, one that reminds visitors that man and nature are indeed intertwined.
Schlick explains, "For some reason people have decided that they are separate, that they're different from or apart from the natural world, but everything comes from this planet, so I think it's important for people to remember that connection, not only for their physical well being but for their spiritual well being as well."
After a nice hike outdoors, the education continues inside the center. Educators there provide a wealth of programs and information for all ages, says Schlick.
"We put up a lot of exhibits through all 3 stories of the building, to help people get connected to nature, and to help people learn how to take care of the planet, and they're all designed to engage the young person, while at the same time teaching the grown ups that came with the kids, something that will take them to the next level, too," Schlick explained.
Animals of all species help visitors experience a closer look at Mother Nature. Fish, reptiles and amphibians are all here to enhance the learning process, but the unofficial star of the center's animal ambassadors is Liberty, a female Bald Eagle that was injured in the wild many years ago.
Now Liberty helps visitors further bond and reconnect with the home she can no longer return to.
"We take care of her here," says Schlick "And she provides a lot of talking points when people come, we can talk about endangered species, of course the Bald Eagle is no longer endangered, they're still on the threatened list, but it gives us a chance to talk about habitat , habitat improvements and so on that will help wildlife."
The center's engaging experience helps remind us on many levels of the natural world we so often take for granted.
"There are so many things that are vying for our attention that are indoors, you know, movies and malls, just all kind of things that we sometimes forget to take advantage of what's just naturally provided to us."
The center runs fascinating programs throughout the year. For more information, visit their website at http://www.jamestownaudubon.org