Frequently Asked Questions

Visiting Blandford

Blandford Nature Center is an independent non-profit which means that we do not receive any tax funding. All of our support comes from program fees, memberships, annual donations, corporate gifts, awarded grants, and sponsorships. Your admission dollars help support our operations so we can maintain our property and trails, conduct building maintenance, host land stewardship projects, care for our Wildlife Ambassadors, and more.

We do encourage admission even if you’re only walking the trails. Your admission dollars help us with general operational needs. If you plan on visiting often, consider purchasing a Membership (members get free daily admission)! Our gate closes when the Visitor Center does, so guests should plan accordingly when visiting.

In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service animals are welcome at Blandford Nature Center. Please read our Service Animal Policy for more information and rules/stipulations.

In the event that a service animal’s presence within certain areas of the nature center is demonstrated to cause the captive wildlife in that area undue stress or anxiety, or present the potential for injury, we reserve the right under the ADA to designate such areas as off-limits or to designate the area as sensitive and request that guests observe extra caution in such areas.

  • Enjoy a day with your family at one of our Signature Events (Sugarbush Festival, Earth Day Celebration, Bands at Blandford, etc.)
  • Hike our well-maintained trails and explore our unique grounds through all four seasons
  • Visit our Wildlife Ambassadors in Our Wildlife Education Center or along our Wildlife Trail
  • Sign your child up for a Seasonal Camp during winter, spring, and/or summer
  • Explore our historical buildings in Heritage Village
  • Rent snowshoes in the Winter for a fun way to hike or cross-country ski on our trails
  • Check out our Farm and say hello to our farm animals or visit the Children’s Garden
  • Enjoy outdoor play with your children by spending time in our Nature Nook playscape
  • View our volunteer opportunities and sign-up to volunteer regularly or complete a day of service with a group
  • Purchase unique gifts and items for the nature lovers in your life from our Gift Shop
  • Have fun with friends and family at our community programs like Nature Discoveries, Date Nights, and more

Groups of 10 or more are required to call ahead of time to let us know you are coming at 616-735-6240. Regular admission rates apply.

Please be courteous of our guided groups and student campers. Areas being used in our programming may be off-limits so please ask Visitor Services during check-in for areas that are off-limits. Trail packs may be checked out at the Visitor Services desk to aid in your self-exploration.

Yes! The Rapid bus route 7 stops at the corner of Hillburn Ave NW and Leonard St NW which is a half mile down the street from our Visitor Center. For more information, call The Rapid at 616-776-1100 or visit www.ridetherapid.org.

The historical buildings in Heritage Village are normally only open to the public on annual festival and special event days (Sugarbush Festival, Harvest Festival, etc.) and is based on volunteer interpreter availability.

We are currently working on a schedule so the buildings can be open regularly on weekdays/weekends. Regular admission fees apply to visit the buildings.

Trail & Property Etiquette 

You certainly can! We require that your dog is on a leash at all times, stays on the trails, and that there is a doggy waste bag in hand to clean up after your pet.

Dogs are allowed everywhere on the property except on our Wildlife Trail and inside our buildings (with the exception of service animals).

Bikes are not allowed on our trails. Please park and lock your bikes at the provided bike racks then enjoy your walk on the trails. Blandford promotes recreational uses that are low-profile, low-impact and consistent with our land ethical values.

The City of Walker and Grand Rapids have other bike-friendly parks you can explore.

Please do not play in the creek. We take small groups in/near the creek with one of our educators only so visitors can learn about the ecological health of the creek and the impact humans have on it.

You can use your own snowshoes or cross-country skis on our trails and at The Highlands. Please keep in mind that our trails are not specifically groomed for winter recreation and there must be a minimum of 5″ of snow in order to rent our snowshoes.

Snowshoe rentals are free with a Blandford membership. Without membership, snowshoes are $6 for adults and $3 for children plus the cost of admission ($3/person). Snowshoes must be turned back in 15 minutes before the Visitor Center closes each day.

We do not allow anyone to camp out (during the day or overnight) on our property. Please refer to this list of Grand Rapids campgrounds to see places for camping within city limits.

Wildlife

No, Blandford no longer accepts injured or infant wild animals for rehabilitation. PLEASE NOTE THAT IT IS ILLEGAL TO CARE FOR WILD ANIMALS WITHOUT PROPER PERMITS FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. Refer to the categories of information (Bird & Waterfowl, Reptiles & Amphibians, and Mammals) for immediate steps and contact a licensed rehabilitator for assistance using the information below:

All Wildlife

Wildlife Rehab Center | (616) 361-6109 | TEXT ONLY:  (616) 606-5805 | wildliferehabcenter.org

Raptors (Owls, Hawks, Eagles)

Riverside Wildlife Rehabilitation | (269) 816-2209
Northsky Raptor Sanctuary | (231) 326-4663
Sharron Butler | (269) 649-2028

Mammals

Nottingham Nature Nook | (517) 351-7304 or (517) 448-7451
Misty Bend Wildlife Refuge | (231) 869-5428
Soulshine Wildlife Center | (616) 951-5277

Other Wildlife

Click here for a list of other Licensed Michigan Rehabilitators.

Please do not drop off any animals on the Blandford property as it disrupts our ecology and causes territory issues between wildlife.

For help with pests on your personal property, please contact one of the wildlife control services below:

Blandford Nature Center is no longer a wildlife rehab facility. PLEASE NOTE THAT IT IS ILLEGAL TO CARE FOR WILD ANIMALS WITHOUT PROPER PERMITS FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. Refer to the information below to find the best care for the species in need, please DO NOT drop off any animals on Blandford’s property as it disrupts our ecosystems.  

Birds and waterfowl make their nests in all kinds of places including trees and shrubs, nest boxes, and even your laundry vent or garden. They make their nests where they have a good view of all angles to watch for predators, although these locations may not be the most ideal in human eyes. 

If you find a bird nest with eggs, leave the nest alone as the babies have the best chance of survival being raised by their mother. The birds will occupy this nest for a few weeks to a month, and once the nest is emptied, it may be removed if necessary. Waterfowl do not incubate their nests until all their eggs are laid, so if you see an unattended nest, the mother is likely spending time with her mate on the water away from the nest and they will return. Once she lays all the eggs, she will only leave the nest in the morning and in the evening. Songbirds return to the nest frequently throughout the day. 

If you haven’t seen a mother come back to the nest in days, the nest is likely abandoned. Unfortunately, if the eggs are not incubated they will not survive. It is illegal to disturb waterfowl nests, so if you suspect a nest is abandoned it is best to leave it alone as the eggs are not likely not viable anyways. 

If you find a baby bird outside of the nest, assess the situation and use the flowchart below to determine your next steps. 

Young birds and waterfowl CAN be returned to their nest even if they have been touched by a human. Wear gloves to limit contact when handling a baby bird and attempt to locate the nest that the bird came from. Returning them to their original nest will give them their best chances at survival. 

If you cannot reach the nest or cannot locate the nest, you can make a make-shift nest out of a small container.  Make sure to place small holes in the bottom of the container for drainage and put leaves or grass into the container to make a “nest”. You will want to secure the nest to the tree as close as you can to the original nest with string or rope. If the mother is around, she will feed her young in both nests. 

If you find a young bird hopping on the ground, leave the bird alone and keep dogs or cats away from the area as the baby is learning how to fly and find its own food. Once healthy songbirds are too big for the nest, they will hop out and spend time on the ground for a few days. This is the fledgling phase and the bird will have its eyes open and have most of their body covered in feathers. The parents are watching these birds from the trees at a distance to avoid drawing attention to the young.

Blandford Nature Center is no longer a wildlife rehab facility. PLEASE NOTE THAT IT IS ILLEGAL TO CARE FOR WILD ANIMALS WITHOUT PROPER PERMITS FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. Refer to the information below to find the best care for the species in need, please DO NOT drop off any animals on Blandford’s property as it disrupts our ecosystems. 

Michigan reptiles and amphibians include snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs, and toads. These animals are ectothermic meaning they move to warmer or cooler areas of their habitat to regulate their body temperature. These animals are often victims of trauma from lawn mowers or yard tools as well as vehicles on roads.

If a baby reptile or amphibian appears healthy but has no parent near, please leave the animal alone as it is normal for them to receive no parental care after they are born.

If the animal is in an unsafe location such as a road, you may relocate the animal to a safer location. It is best to move the animal to a location that is in the direction it was traveling.

If you find a injured turtle with a cracked shell or limb damage, contact a wildlife rehabilitator to help the turtle. Place it in a dark warm box or container until a rehabber is contacted.  

If you find a turtle with an injury that looks healed, it is okay to release the animal where it was found as the injury has healed and the animal has adapted. 

If you have an injured snake or toad, place it in a dark warm container to reduce stress until you can contact a rehabber.

If the injured animal is a frog or salamander, it is important to place a piece of damp paper towel in the container with the animal as they need to keep their skin moist until a rehabber is found.

Blandford Nature Center is no longer a wildlife rehab facility. PLEASE NOTE THAT IT IS ILLEGAL TO CARE FOR WILD ANIMALS WITHOUT PROPER PERMITS FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. Refer to the information below to find the best care for the species in need, please DO NOT drop off any animals on Blandford’s property as it disrupts our ecosystems. 

Michigan is home to many mammal species including raccoons, opossums, squirrels, and rabbits. These animals are born with no fur and with their eyes closed. During this time, they rely completely on their mother to care for them after birth. These animals are warm blooded, however when they are so young they cannot yet regulate their own body temperature. Mammals chose secluded, dark, and warm areas to nest in, like in a hole in a tree or in an attic or crawl space. If you find a baby squirrel, raccoon, or other mammal, it is important to assess the situation to take the proper steps.

If the baby mammal appears injured, place it in a warm, dark box with something warm like a water bottle filled with warm water until you can get the animal to a rehabber. DO NOT FEED THE ANIMAL ANYTHING as this can do more harm than good for a baby mammal. Wear gloves when handling baby mammals as they can carry many diseases that can be harmful to humans. 

If the baby appears uninjured, it will have the best chances of survival by being placed back with the mother. Wear gloves when moving a young mammal to decrease your scent on the baby and try to locate the nest that it came from. 

If you are able to locate a nest and can reach it, place the mammal back into the nest. If you can see the nest but cannot reach it, place the baby as close to the nest as you can in hopes that the baby will be brought back into the nest by its mother overnight. This tends to be very successful with squirrels and raccoons. If the baby is in the same location the next day, it is time to contact a rehabber. 

Under no circumstances is it okay to raise the baby mammal on your own as this is illegal in Michigan. 

Humane Society of West Michigan | 616-453-8900 | hswestmi.org
Kent County Animal Shelter | 616-632-7304 | accesskent.com
Kent County Health Department | 616-632-7100 | accesskent.com
Animal Emergency Hospital | 616-361-9911 | westmichiganaeh.com

Kent County Sheriff’s Office | 616-632-6100 | accesskent.com
Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office | 800-249-0911 | miottawa.org
Michigan State Police | 616-866-4411 | michigan.gov

No, hunting deer or any other animal on Blandford’s property is not allowed for the following reasons:

  • Blandford is located in the middle of a neighborhood and the property is not fenced. This makes it impossible to close to the public and makes hunting risky.
  • Blandford is also located in two separate municipalities with different hunting ordinances. This makes a deer control program logistically unworkable.
  • Blandford is not isolated. Again, the property isn’t fenced, and deer can come and go, so any deer control efforts we made on our own would not be effective. A regional deer control effort would be needed to meaningfully reduce the deer population. Neighbors who are concerned about the deer overpopulation should contact their city or county representatives because a regional deer control program would have to be something residents asked for.

Here is a link to the City of Ann Arbor Deer Management page for more information on how regional deer management programs work.

School Trips

Blandford Nature Center field trips allow your students to answer big questions in a hands-on, natural environment. Our field trips are aligned with Next Generation Science Standards so students not only learn about a particular subject matter, but they learn about its interactions with the rest of their world. Research is clear that time spent in nature helps children develop better cognitive abilities and critical-thinking skills and equips them with the passion and knowledge to care about their environment.

To book a field trip, please check out our program options on our Field Trips page. Then, click the “book a program” button to fill out our online field trip request form. Please note that there are separate request forms for GRPS 1st and 3rd grade teachers and for virtual programs.

The cost of a field trip is $7 per student per program, with a minimum program fee of $100. We require a minimum of 1 teacher or adult chaperone for every 5 students in attendance.

Please allow for two weeks response time for your request, particularly in early fall & around Sugarbush in March.

Blandford programs ask big questions for hands-on exploration. Due to Covid-19, we try to ensure as much time can be spent outdoors, however some programs will have indoor stations. Please make sure your students are prepared with weather-appropriate clothing and closed-toed shoes that can get muddy.

When you arrive, your bus should park in the designated bus parking beside the depots on the east side of the parking lot. Your Blandford educators will meet you at the bus and lead you to your program. If you come in cars, your educators will meet you in front of the Mary Jane Dockeray Visitor Center. If you arrive significantly before your program begins, we recommend taking your students on the Wildlife Trail that wraps around the north side of the Visitor Center. Please do not bring groups of students into the Visitor Center except in situations of inclement weather.

Weather Cancellation: If the National Weather Service issues a severe weather warning we will cancel the program; there is no fee for canceling due to severe weather. We will attempt to reschedule based on availability. If your school calls a snow day, there is no fee for canceling. If you choose not to attend your program due to weather, but a severe warning is not issued and your school has not called a snow day, you will be subject to the cancellation fee if we are unable to reschedule your field trip.

Covid-19 Policies and Procedures: Blandford Nature Center takes the health and safety of its guests, employees, and animals very seriously. Due to concerns regarding Covid-19, Blandford Nature Center may cancel, postpone, or reschedule any programs under the guidance of state-mandated orders. As much notice as possible will be given in the event of a program cancellation or change. Programs that are affected by a Covid-19 related change will be rescheduled based on availability.

All Other Cancellations: For all non-weather cancelations, notice must be sent to the Registrar at registrar@blandfordnaturecenter.org and received at least 15 business days before the scheduled program to receive a full refund. Cancelations within 15 business days of a scheduled program will receive a 50% refund. This policy does not apply to cases of inclement weather or programs that are rescheduled (based on availability).

One teacher or adult chaperone is required for every 5 students in attendance. Chaperones who are required to attend are included in your program fee. Any additional chaperones will be charged $3 per person.

Your chaperone will assist with breaking students up into groups and will follow educators for the remainder of the program. Chaperones are requested to model appropriate behavior (listening to the educator, staying on trails, etc.) Please do not not pull students aside for photos, have side conversations while the educator is teaching, interrupt the educator, or answer or talk on a cell phone during the program. Chaperones may also be asked to assist the educator with any materials (handing out clipboards or trail sheets), and in rare cases, assist the educator with behavior management (buddying up with an energetic student and helping to ensure the group stays together). Please inform your chaperones of their roles and responsibilities prior to arriving at the program.

We charge $7/student with a program minimum of $100.

As soon as we receive your request, we reserve educators to teach your program and those educators are made unavailable for other programs. Your pre-payment allows us to accurately schedule out our staff to ensure that all schools have the educators they need for their programs and ensures our educators are compensated for their prep time.

If the cost of a program is prohibitive, please contact our Program Manager at (616) 735-6240 ext. 115 or registrar@blandfordnaturecenter.org.

If there have been any changes to your expected head count, please let us know immediately as any changes could affect our staffing (due to concerns about Covid-19, there are strict limits on group sizes). Extra students or chaperones who arrive the day of without prior notification will not be allowed to join the program.

We will do our best to accommodate your group if you are running late. Please call us at 616 735-6240 as soon as you know you’ll be late, and prior to arrival discuss with your transportation whether you will be able to depart late from BNC. Depending on BNC’s schedule and your transportation needs, we will set a new schedule for your visit. Though we will do our best to accommodate, a tardy arrival will likely result in a shortened program.

Yes! When you make your reservation, please let us know that you’ll be eating lunch while on the property. Lunches can be eaten in the schoolyard or at the farm: a limited number of picnic tables are available at both locations. Due to Covid-19, we are not able to offer indoor spaces in the case of inclement weather. We do not have refrigeration facilities for lunches, so please bring coolers for any lunches that may need them.

Yes! There are many ways to extend your time at Blandford:

  • Following your program, you can lead your group on a self-guided hike – we’ll provide you with trail maps and hike sheets and you can stay as long as you’d like.
  • You can do two programs on a single day: we recommend doing a morning program followed by lunch, and then an afternoon program. Any of our programs can be combined in this way (season permitting).
  • Some programs have additional content stations that we can add to your experience. Our Anishinabek Lifeways program can be extended into a full-day experience or additional 20 minute stations can be added; Pioneer Life can be extended by 30 minutes; and Snowy Survivors can be extended by 30 minutes to include a free snowshoe hike.

Giving, Donations & Volunteering

We request that your Service Group have no less than 5 volunteers. Some projects work better with more or less volunteers, depending on the task. The Volunteer Manager will do their best to play “matchmaker” with your group’s number of volunteers, skills, availability, and the  amount of projects.

We require that all service groups dedicate at least 1 hour to their service day, preferably during open hours (Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm). We are flexible during your work day and may alter the duration originally requested depending on the number of volunteers, weather, and tasks available.

As a non-profit, Blandford doesn’t always have resources set aside for some of our wishlist projects. Along with the hands-on work, you can also purchase or donate supplies needed to complete the project!

When requesting a service work day, please note that you’re interested in funding the project or would like to make a donation so that our Volunteer Manager can discuss options with you.

  • What donation amounts are accepted by Blandford?
    • Any and all amounts of donations are greatly appreciated and accepted.
  • What will I receive in return for my donation?
    • With a monetary donation, you will receive a tax acknowledgement and donor recognition in the Wildlife Center. This option is for supporters that want their entire gift to go towards the care of our wildlife ambassadors.
    • If you are looking for additional benefits from your donation, our Sponsor an Animal option above may be a better fit for you.
  • How will my donation be used?
    • A general donation can be used in numerous ways in the Wildlife Education Center. Your gift may be used for purchasing food or general enclosure maintenance such as heating, cooling or lighting. Your donation is highly appreciated and will be used for whatever is most needed at that time.

Other

Grand Rapids Public Schools runs the Blandford Environmental Education Program that is housed on the Nature Center’s property. You can learn more about the Blandford School on their website.