Let's flash back a few years. I'm a brand new graduate student at Miami University- in the Institute of Environmental Sciences- with big dreams of making a difference in the environmental field. Our teachers packed a bunch of us newbie students into fifteen passenger vans and we set out on a three day adventure around southwest and central Ohio- the goal? To see as many environmental type things we could- ranging from wildlife sanctuaries-to chemical plants- to landfills.
But one of the coolest places we visited was the Aullwood Audubon Center & Farm in Dayton- what an awesome place. Now THAT is a nature center, my nature loving friends. If you haven't been there, go. But what does this have to do with Columbus and the here and now?
I remember our guide, way back in 2001, telling us how there was a downtown nature center be planned for the City of Columbus. What a cool idea, I thought to myself- as a young and aspiring environmental professional, I thought, that would be a great place to work.
Well, it has been about eight years since I first heard about the center, and well, I just couldn't wait around that long to find a job. But, last weekend, I did have an opportunity to participate in the opening weekend of Columbus' newest nature destination- The Grange Insurance Audubon Center.
I received an e-mail out of the blue from Victoria, an educator at the Center, asking me if I wanted to display some of my photographs that appeared here at The Ohio Nature Blog. After a few e-mails, this eventually morphed into me agreeing to present "a photo workshop". After a bit of thinking, I said sure, I could do that, and I eventually came up with the title "eight tips for better nature photography" which I'll share here in time.
I hope the patrons who had gathered at the center enjoyed my talk- we had a nice conservation about photography, and I really enjoy being able to share my view of the world with others, this time, in a face-to-face situation.
But let's get back to the center. It is situated on the Whittier Peninsula, in a reclaimed industrial area just south of Columbus (i added a Google map that shows you what the area recently to look like, scroll down to the end of the post).
The old industrial land that surrounds the center is now Scioto Audubon Metropark. This land is a work in progress, as you'll see below.
The building is really quite cool. It is quite an example of eco-engineering. Take for example storm water management. See those strange looking rusty-red downspots? They bring water off the roof, underneath the large sidewalk, and then into the rain garden/swale on the left. This system eventually works itself down into a little pond, which is already frequented by twelve spotted skimmers.
The center itself looks towards the city and towards the mighty Scioto (pronounced Sy-O-tah), on the banks of which our capital city was founded. The river was muddier than my grandfather's cream filled coffee on this day from recent rains, although the turtles were out in full force- both map turtles, painted turtles and the non-native red-eared sliders.
My only surprise with the Audubon center was its lack of exhibits. Aullwood, in my recollection, was full of live animals and just all sorts of really cool nature "flair". Perhaps the Grange Center is just ramping up- but I'd like to see more nature things in the building itself. I'm sure this will happen with time.
We're quite lucky to have a world class nature center building here in the heart of Ohio. If you are able, visit often, and watch it, and the native plants sown around the center, grow. I should add a caveat- If the geese don't eat them all first.
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