Efforts to keep the public engaged have been ongoing, over the last 12+ months of quarantine, social distancing, and vaccinations. The diverse ways visitors have been able to enjoy the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks, virtually or following safety guidelines outdoors, is impressive. . . but something has been missing.
This is especially true of parks that are well known for outstanding in-person programming, event spaces, educational resources, and interactive activities, for all ages. Much of this was cancelled, beginning in spring 2020. Doors were locked. Signs were posted. I was disappointed.
The Grange Insurance Audubon Center, part of the Scioto Audubon Metro Park, has operated through this time with public safety front of mind. That means getting creative, and a lot of hard work on the part of the staff. It also means closures and cancellations. So, I was beyond excited to discover, unexpectedly, that doors were open this month!
A large red banner, announcing simply “OPEN”, greeted me. I’d made a quick stop at the park, after a downtown breakfast at North Market (link below), on a Saturday morning. I had a stack of books with me, intended for the Little Free Library in front of the park’s beautiful, modern nature center. From a distance I saw the front door open – and a visitor walked in!
It was such a simple thing, but I gasped! “It’s really open. . . !?”
The lift to my spirits was immediate; the joy this brought my heart was abundant. In that moment, even more than the day I received my Johnson & Johnson vaccine, I realized that the world really would start to open up again. Here it was, right before me! It felt as though I was being welcomed back.
I’d participated in the 2021 Metro Parks Winter Hike Series (link below). That had me out all winter long, exploring the trails at each and every one of the parks. I was there rain or shine, through wind and snow. But I wanted more, and here it was, at last!
I let myself into the building. There were marks on the floor, letting visitors know where to stand. And there they were – an excited group of novice birders, standing six feet apart, learning the basics of how to use binoculars, together. Who thought group learning could be such a delight?! Questions were asked, and answered, in real time. The person leading the group was visibly delighted to be encircled by likeminded bird enthusiasts.
Not wanting to disturb the group, I took a sharp left into a hallway, where I could see art on display. I quietly began looking all around the building, reacquainting myself with the nature center.
In full color, printed on a reflective metallic surface, were beautiful wildlife photography prints. A sign in the breezeway let me know that the exhibit had been hung just two weeks earlier, and would entertain visitors through June. What a colorful, artistic, inspiring way to welcome visitors back!
“Conservation Through a Lens, April 10th – June 18th. Highlighting extraordinary wildlife from around the world and their intriguing conservation stories through captivating photography, video, workshops and powerful interpretation. This exhibit takes a multidisciplinary approach to combine science and art in a way that can benefit the community and our local ecosystems).” (Audubon website)
Following the trail of prints, I used the camera on my cell phone to scan QR codes that took me to sites with more information about the exhibit. I made my way around the building. Another hallway led to the north end of the building, which looks out on a view of the Columbus skyline. The best view is from the center’s library.
The chattering sounds of birds at the feeder, just outside the windows, are piped into the bird-themed library. What a delight it would be to have a room like this in my home, with volume after volume dedicated to nature and birds. You could spend a lifetime and not read it all. Small displays of bird-themed trinkets, framed prints of common bird species, and a large selection “Wildfowl Carving Magazine” back issues also decorated the shelves.
It’s truly a sanctuary!
I took a moment to check out the kids activity and education room, say ‘hi’ to the resident turtle, and snap a few photos at 5-year-old level. The room has small windows cut into one wall, low to the ground, where kiddos can sit on a bench and watch the birds in the garden, without drawing attention to themselves or disturbing the wildlife. I saw a masked couple and their Doodle puppy making their way through the gardens.
A table near the front desk was covered with info about upcoming events!
I took some, with a sense of hope…
There was a stack of small books (pamphlets, almost) about puffins, so I took one of those too, to drop into a Little Free Library that needed some books.
I also took two packets of wildflower seeds, which are now scattered in the largest pot I could find, in my backyard, in hopes that I’ll grow a little patch of colorful flowers that will attract butterflies. I’m a renter, so I won’t be tossing wildflowers into the ground.
Jumping onto the center’s website, as I left the site, I realized that timed ticketing for visits was in place and pre-registration for events was required. Once the small group of birders headed outside we were the only ones in the building, and the staff was kind enough to allow us to stay.
“The Grange Insurance Audubon Center has lots of ways to engage daily. Please remember, for your safety, masks and social distancing are required inside the center as well as timed ticketing and pre-registration for our programming. For a complete listing of things you can do during your visit, click here!” (Grange Insurance Audubon Center website)
I shared my delight about the center being open. I mentioned this blog, and assured the staff that I’d be writing about my experience, being welcomed back to the nature center. If you’re encouraged to visit, do! Just plan ahead.
Workshops offered: Converting Photography into Video, Introduction to Wildlife Photography, Using Media to Interpret the Natural World, Beyond the Lawn, Planet Indonesia (virtual) and Resilience: Story of the American Red Wolf Film Screening (virtual)
Scioto Greenway Trail: 10 miles
Connector Trails: 2.5 miles
Join me on my next adventure,
Grange Insurance Audubon Center: https://grange.audubon.org/
Scioto Audubon Metro Park:
North Market, Columbus, OH:
Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks – Winter Hike Series: