Harris Nature Center

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It’s no secret that the city of East Lansing comes alive during the first months of spring. No longer trapped inside by cold temperatures and mounds of snow, East Lansing residents and MSU students can leave their snow boots and parkas behind to fall in love all over again with their newly green surroundings. To truly recognize the beauty that springtime has to offer, consider a visit to the Harris Nature Center.

Open since 1997, the Harris Nature Center in Okemos has been a break from the commotion of city and campus life for the people of Lansing and East Lansing.

“It’s just so peaceful out here,” Kit Rich, Harris Nature Center coordinator and senior park naturalist, said. “We’re young, only 20 years old, so there are still a lot of people who don’t know about us.”

Part of the Meridian Township Parks system, the 40-acre expanse is open year-round and offers a range of activities for the people of mid-Michigan. With multiple parks included as part of the nature center, like Legg Park and Eastgate Park, and a north boundary of the Red Cedar River, Rich says that, though the center may feel like a “get-away-from-it-all place,” it isn’t too far of a trek for the students of East Lansing. In fact, she sees students frequenting the grounds often.

“Some students … already are coming out here,” Rich said. “We see a lot of young people. Some of the science classes will come out from MSU and LCC. They look at the trees or the ecology, the birds. Sometimes we’re a field trip destination.”

As part of the center’s mission to “protect, promote and interpret the Red Cedar River and its surrounding ecosystem,” Harris Nature Center offers exhibits, programs and daily openings from dusk to dawn, including holidays. Even if the center or building is closed, anyone is welcome to walk the trails free of charge to clear their head or enjoy Michigan seasons. 

This month and next month, the Harris Nature Center is offering events and programs for everyone, from the stressed-out college student to the hardcore nature lover. Upcoming events include a Song Bird Nest Box Workshop, an Earth Day Walkabout and Native Plants Day. The center also offers a stewardship morning once a month on Saturdays from 9 – 11 a.m., where anyone can volunteer and help take care of trails and habitat areas.

Whether you love exploring in nature or you’re simply sick of the anxieties of campus, Rich encourages you to “come out and discover the nature center and all of the beautiful habitat area that surrounds it.” Rich is hoping that people, “let nature be a part of their lives — whatever that means to them.”

The Harris Nature Center is located at 3998 Van Atta Road in Okemos, Michigan, 48864. For more information, call the center at (517) 349-3866 or visit facebook.com/HarrisNatureCenter.

Upcoming events at the Harris Nature Center:

April 21: Song Bird Nest Box Workshop. 2-3:30 p.m.
Learn about bluebirds, chickadees, finches, wrens and how you can attract them to your backyard. The event is free, but building nest boxes to take home has a small fee.

April 22: Earth Day Walkabout. 2-3 p.m.
A guided tour with a naturalist who will point out early wildflowers, signs of animal life and changes brought on by spring. $3 per person.

May 5: Native Plants Day. 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Learn about native plants and the many ways in which they can enhance your garden. The event is free. Over 70 varieties of native plants will be available for purchase.