Visiting the Merryspring Nature Center can be the best type of educational experience - one that is done without anyone knowing. Walk the many trails, view the beautiful, cultivated landscapes and gardens, and learn about the flora and fauna native to the area while enjoying the peace and serenity that the nature center has to offer.
Mary Ellen Ross, the brainchild behind the non-profit nature center, opened the area to the public in 1974. Spanning 66 acres, the goal is to help teach and also advocate conservation, ecology, and sound horticultural principles to the general public while still allowing enjoyment of the natural features. Open every day of the year during daytime hours, and run by a staff of three, the number of visitors that come to the nature center continues to grow every year. Starting with a small area and now featuring a visitor center, an administrative area/workspace, a Nature Library, and a meeting center, that growth appears to not be ready to stop anytime soon.
Merryspring a wonderland of different gardens, trails and other attractions for guests to wander through all day.
Gardens - Try to visit as many of the 10 theme gardens as possible when visiting. From the herb garden to the birch grove to the winter garden, visitors will find a variety of annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs.
Trails - From easy trails to slightly more difficult terrain, hikers can enjoy up to four miles of winding trails through Merryspring’s meadows and woodlands. The Interpretive trail is a favorite, highlighting points of special interest with unique histories. There is also a perimeter trail offering a glimpse of wildlife habitat and an occasional view of Bald and Ragged mountains in the distance.
Bird areas - There are many areas for birdwatchers to check out on the nature center grounds. Merryspring is home to Black capped chickadees, Rose breasted grosbeaks, American robins, purple finches and more. Listen for the melodic singing of the hermit thrush. Visit the website ahead of a visit to see a complete list of the birds that have been seen there and try to identify other species not on the list!
Arboretum - Close to the visitor center is the ten-acre Kitty Todd Arboretum showcasing 35 species of trees and shrubs native to the US and the area. Grab a brochure to see the map and location of each one as well as getting more information about them.
Vernal pool - Originally abandoned by a local lime company, the quarry has become a natural vernal pool. Depending on the time of year guests visit, there can be wood frogs, dragon flies and many other invertebrates. At the end of the year the pool naturally dries up and the cycle repeats itself annually.
Wildlife - Many species call this area home, including hawks, deer, ermine, and porcupine.
Restoration Orchard - In 1999, this orchard was created in an attempt to restore the American Chestnut tree to its former prominence in the area after many of them were wiped out by a fungus in the 1920s. Now being crossbred to create a heartier variety that can withstand the blight and fungus, the orchard is one of the locations of this ongoing experiment.
Merryspring encourages school field trips to their grounds, as the many gardens and trails create a perfect out of classroom accompaniment to in classroom learning. Offered free of charge, a field trip here can be aligned with many school units to make sure to hit state benchmarks and curriculum guidelines. There is plenty of bus parking as well as indoor classroom areas that have a projector in case of inclement weather. There is also an outdoor gazebo for teachers to enjoy lunch with their students. Suggested activities and topics include: nature walks that include birding and wildlife activities, winter tracking, weather science, water cycle, and different types of nature classification and identification.
Contact the nature center ahead of time to reserve space and to set up a program that fits the specific educational guidelines and lesson plan of the age group coming. It is also possible to involve students in service projects like helping clean the gardens and trails after their field trip.
There are also opportunities for homeschooled students well. Contact the nature center for more information.
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