Blandford’s History

“It is my hope that an awareness and enthusiasm for nature will further stimulate concern for the total environment and will be an asset for the world and its future.”

-Dr. Mary Jane Dockeray, Founder

The History of Blandford

The place now known as Blandford Nature Center began as Collins Woods, part of the Collins family farm. It was the place Dr. Mary Jane Dockeray explored as a child and nurtured her love of the outdoors. In time, Victor Blandford purchased the farm from the Collins family and began to sell it off as lots.

In 1949, Mary Jane began working for the Grand Rapids Public Museum as a nature lecturer. Eventually, Mary Jane convinced the Blandford family to donate 17 acres to the museum for the development of a nature center, and she became the curator. In 1965, the Museum Association helped seek the funds necessary for building a visitor center, which opened in 1968.

Over time, Mary Jane found state dollars to purchase more land, bringing the Grand Rapids city-owned land to a current total of 264 acres with our recent acquisition of the former Highlands golf course with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan. In 2003, Blandford seceded from the  Grand Rapids Public Museum and entered its early years. It was managed by Grand Rapids Public Schools for four years and in 2007, merged with Mixed Greens. 

In 2009, the Wege Foundation provided five years of funding for an Executive Director to stabilize the organization and rebuild it as an asset for the community. Blandford Nature Center has been a thriving independent, charitable 501(c)(3) nonprofit ever since.

Join our efforts in empowering and engaging our community through enriching experiences in nature! Become a member today to explore nature year-round for FREE and take advantage of the great benefits.

Blandford's 50th Anniversary!


2018 marks our 50th anniversary, and we’ll be honoring the past and looking towards the future of Blandford Nature Center throughout the year. You can support the next 50 years of Blandford by making a financial donation here!


Help us celebrate! Come out to our events to hear a special tie-in about the beginning years of Blandford and how it relates to our programming today. View our community programs calendar for a list of programs and program information.