WNHA sandhill crane  logoWaterloo Natural History Association, Chelsea, Michigan
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Sandhill Cranes in a Waterloo Recreation Area Fall corn field

Fall 2013 Sandhill Crane viewing map (Updated October 21, 2013)

Click here for a pdf (934 KB) of the latest Sandhill Crane viewing hotspots. A hardcopy of this map is also available at the Discovery Center.

Waterloo Natural History Association

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One of the boardwalks currently under construction

New Boardwalks Under Construction

We are pleased to announce that construction has begun on the new boardwalks for the Discovery Center trail system.

The first boardwalk being replaced is the section that leads up to the bog. Plans are to complete this section before the popular school field trips to the bog begin this fall.

Three sections will be replace in all. Work will start on the lowland woods boardwalk this fall. The boardwalk section over the bog will be replaced over the winter.

All materials for the boardwalk sections have been purchased and delivered. The work is being completed by the WRA park rangers.

Thanks again to all who donated to make this project possible.

Credit Cards Now Accepted at the Gift Shop

Come in and browse the WNHA sponsored gift shop at the Eddy Discovery Center, 17030 Bush Rd, Chelsea MI 48118. Credit cards now accepted!

Spring 2013

Discovery Center Boardwalks Reach End of Usable Life

Fundraising Effort Under Way to Replace Them

In the 1970’s, plans were made to build a visitor building in the Waterloo Recreation Area. The Waterloo Nature Center, as it was then called, was constructed overlooking Mill Lake in the eastern section of the park.

The boardwalk to the bog as it appeared in
1976 shortly after construction was completed.

The site was chosen because the surrounding habitats offered a microcosm of the ecological diversity found in the entire park. The Center’s master plan included a comprehensive trail system to provide public access to these unique areas.

Some of the fragile wetlands provided special challenges. To provide safe access and protect these areas, nearly one quarter mile of boardwalk was constructed.

The timing for the project was very fortunate. In 1971 The State of Michigan received a gift of 3,000 acres of land for a new state park from the Federal Government at Fort Custer near Battle Creek. On the site were several hundred old military barracks that had to be removed. Crews of prison inmates were dispatched to the site and took down the buildings board by board.

Some of the lumber was then shipped to Waterloo to be used for the new boardwalks. There it was pre-cut to size, and shipped to a plant in Three Rivers to be pressure treated. The entire cost of pressure treating was $600. The boardwalks were completed in 1976.

In the last thirty six years these boardwalks have withstood the impact of thousands of visitors’ trampling feet while resisting the forces of nature that would turn them back into the soil from which they came. Unfortunately nothing lasts forever. The lumber is finally beginning to succumb, and some of the boardwalks need to be replaced. The boardwalk just prior to entering the bog is in the worst shape and is the most in need of replacement.

Unfortunately there are no more barracks to be torn down to supply the lumber. The cost of the materials needed to replace this boardwalk is about $5,000.

The Waterloo Natural History Association can provide significant financial support toward this project, but the remainder will depend on the generosity of donors.

It is hoped that the funds can be secured in time to rebuild the boardwalk this spring, before the many school field trips to the bog begin.

We are inviting our members and friends to help us make this happen!

To help with this important project please send a check made out to the WNHA and designated for the boardwalk fund. Mail to WNHA at the Discovery Center at 17030 Bush Rd. Chelsea, MI 48118.

The Waterloo Natural History Association is a 501 c 3 organization. All donations are tax deductible within legal limits.

Thanks in advance for your generous support!

Happy Birthday WNHA!

This is a landmark year for the Waterloo Natural History Association as it celebrates its 30th Anniversary. Just as Michigan is currently suffering through an economic crisis, a similar situation existed in the early 1980’s. Only four years after establishing the Waterloo Nature Center, the DNR was forced to close the nature center due to budget restrictions. Part-time naturalists Emily Polens and Carol Strahler did not want to see this wonderful facility closed and were determined to keep the Center open. With the encouragement of Tom Hodgson, then director of the center, and lots of help from many interested community members, the Waterloo Natural History Association was formed in January of 1981 to continue operating the center. The DNR leased the building to the WNHA for $1.00 per year in exchange for the WNHA being responsible for all building and trail maintenance.

WNHA volunteers constructing the Mill Lake scenic observation deck

During that first year, volunteer staff was kept busy promoting the Center to civic organizations in order to recruit sponsors and members who would help support the Center’s activities through donations. Not only were volunteer naturalists presenting programs to thousands of school children, they were also kept busy hosting special events. By March of that year, the First Annual Maple Sugar Festival was established as a successful event with over 700 people in attendance.

During the summer months, the Center offered 2 weeks of Day Camp nature activities to area youth. Weekend programs attracted hundreds of people who came to learn about the local flora and fauna or just have fun constructing a birdhouse or creating a wreath. Tom Jameson was recruited to do his first ever “Wild Edibles Walk”. Little did he know he would become our resident expert with a following of devoted fans! Due to the efforts of WNHA volunteers, almost 10,000 people visited the Center and explored the trails during our first year of operation.

Due to increased demand for interpretive services, a Volunteer Assistant Naturalist Program was instituted. The response was excellent and after training, dedicated volunteers felt knowledgeable enough to lead both weekend and weekday programs. Volunteers also helped maintain the Center building and trails, and helped run the center on weekends. In the spring of 1982, the WNHA was recognized as the “Outstanding Government or Non-Profit Organization for Environmental Achievement” by the Michigan Audubon Society.

During 1982, the WNHA increased its fundraising efforts. Many schools were in a financial bind and could not afford field trips. The WNHA sponsored a countywide Nature Art Contest for all elementary school children. The winning artwork was reproduced on a calendar, whose sales went to support field trips to the Center. During the crisp days of autumn, a Hike-a-Thon was held to help raise funds to pay the bills! Hikers found sponsors who pledged money per mile, the challenge being to hike the entire 17 miles of the Waterloo Hiking Trail from Portage Lake to the Nature Center. That first year we netted over $2000.00.

The WNHA continued to successfully operate the Center until the fall of 1984. At that time it was decided to close the Nature Center building indefinitely until funds could be appropriated to reopen its doors. WNHA naturalists continued to conduct programs for school groups and the general public throughout the Waterloo Area. In 1989 the Nature Center was remodeled by the DNR and reopened and operated by the DNR as the Eddy Geology Center. A gift shop was constructed at that time and Board member Ray Steinbach was instrumental in its successful operation, with funds generated being used to support operations of the Center and WNHA activities. Today the gift shop, currently managed by Sue Phare, is still WNHA’s most important revenue generator.

Thirty years later we are still still providing support for the park. The Waterloo Nature Center has seen many changes through the years, evolving into the Eddy Geology Center and currently the Discovery Center. The WNHA continues to present interpretive programs. Fees from membership and gift shop profits are used to construct interpretive displays in the Center, pay naturalist fees, and purchase birdseed and equipment for the Center. Major projects have included the construction of an osprey nesting platform and the deck which overlooks Mill Lake. We have our members and volunteers to thank for our longevity!!!

Recreation Passport replaces State Motor Vehicle Permit

Michigan Recreational Passport Park SignBeginning October 1, 2010, the $10 Recreation Passport replaces the state park sticker. You can purchase a Recreation Passport when renewing your license plate online, by mail, at Self Service Stations, at a Secretary of State office or when getting a new plate. Check "YES" on your license plate renewal form. Your $10 gets you into all 98 state parks and recreation areas.

For additional information, please visit the Michigan Department of Natural Resources's webpage at www.michigan.gov/recreationpassport

Building Hours

The Gerald E. Eddy Discovery Center building hours will be:

Tuesday through Saturday
10:00 AM to 5:00 PM &

noon to 5:00 PM on Sunday.

Closed from Thanksgiving until January 3, 2016

Trails and Grounds are open every day from dawn to dusk, all year long!

Gift Shop Happenings
The official WNHA T-shirts have arrived! Children and adult sizes, in 3 colors each! Own a comfortable, high-quality shirt and support the WNHA at the same time!

Books for all ages

Papermoon Earrings
Polymer clay art made in Maine
  Volunteers Needed
Since the gift shop is such a vital source of income for the WNHA and the Discovery Center, it is necessary that the WNHA find volunteers to staff the gift shop, especially on weekends and when school visits are scheduled. If you would be willing to donate a few hours to run the gift shop occasionally, please call Kathy Claflin at 517-522-3949 or call the Discovery Center at 734-475-3170. We need your help if we are to be able to support the Discovery Center and the Waterloo Recreation Area as we have in the past.