• Wildlife Ambassadors

    Blandford’s Wildlife Ambassadors permanently live at the Center due to severe injuries; they help educate students and give families a close-up view not often seen in outdoor exploration.

    About our Wildlife

  • Volunteering at Blandford

    Blandford has many opportunities and we would love to help you find something that matches your interests, skills, and availability!

    Learn about Volunteering


    Blandford Nature Center and the Land Conservancy of West Michigan collaborated on the purchase of the 121-acre former Highlands Golf Club in Grand Rapids.

    Learn about the project

  • Injured wild animals

    We no longer accept injured wild animals for rehabilitation. Please refer to our resources and affiliations for assistance with rescue and rehab of wild animals.

    Learn more

  • Experience Nature

    Our programs strive to help people get their hands dirty and discover their relationship to the natural world.

    View our Calendar

It is with profound sadness that we share that our beloved founder, Dr. Mary Jane Dockeray, has passed away peacefully at the age of 93.

Photo Credit: Tiberius Images
“Mary Jane was a local icon in our community,” said Bill Faber, Board Chair of Blandford Nature Center. “The world was changed through her work not only because she preserved over 143 acres of habitat in the City of Grand Rapids, but because she inspired so many children and adults to fall in love with nature and do their part to protect nature too.” She was a leader in environmental education. After graduating from Michigan State College with degrees in geology and environmental education, she worked as the Curator of Natural History at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. She visited schools, educating students about natural sciences and the environment. She authored the book “Let's Go Exploring: Suggestions for Field Trips and Associated Studies in Environmental-Conservation Education.” Dockeray also wrote and produced a film titled “These Things Are Ours” viewed throughout the United States and Canada as part of lecture tours for the National Audubon Society.

The creation of Blandford Nature Center and the Blandford Environmental Education Program were spearheaded by Mary Jane. The Center now encompasses 264 acres of diverse habitats, an interpretive center, farm demonstrations and several historic buildings. It was a lifetime dream to acquire the addition of the Highlands Golf Course, which was accomplished in 2017 in partnership with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan. For more than fifty years, Mary Jane could be found almost every day at the Center talking with school children, adults, and families about nature trails, wildlife and history of the Center. 

“It’s important to recognize the fact Blandford Nature Center literally would not have come into existence over 50 years ago without her,” said Jason Meyer, president/CEO of Blandford Nature Center. “There will never be another Mary Jane Dockeray and her impact will be felt for generations. If we all followed Mary Jane’s example the world would be a much different, and better, place.”

Mary Jane received numerous awards, including the Michigan Audubon Society Outstanding Member Award. She was also inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame. Most recently, she received the inaugural Association of Nature Center Administrators’ President’s Award for exemplary leadership in the Nature and Environmental Learning Center Profession. The Mary Jane Dockeray Scholarship fund was established at Grand Valley State University to recognize outstanding high school seniors planning on science careers.

“Mary Jane’s awards are too vast and far-reaching to list,” said City of Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss “She did not measure her success by awards, she measured it by the smiles on children’s faces, the curiosity and questions of visitors and the volume of frog calls in the evening. Her passion, energy and heart for our community will be greatly missed.”

Mary Jane has asked that donations be made to the Mary Jane Dockeray Endowment at Blandford Nature Center. Please indicate that your gift is in memory of Mary Jane Dockeray.

Welcome Back!

Visitor & Wildlife Center New Hours: Mon-Sat, 10AM-3PM

We are so excited to welcome back our visitors and members to our Visitor and Wildlife Education Center! As the health and safety of our community is our top priority, we are following guidelines and implementing recommended precautions as we reopen. Following is a guide of what to expect when you come inside the Visitor Center:

  • If our current inside visitor count is LESS than 10, we will be able to help you immediately upon arrival.
  • If our inside count is AT 10, you will be asked to wait outside at a marked 6 ft physical distance from other visitors. We will let you know when it is your turn to enter.
  • For your safety and ours, Blandford Nature Center requires all staff and visitors to wear masks while inside the Visitor and Wildlife Centers. Masks are optional outdoors.
  • Please postpone your visit if you are feeling ill, all staff is required to do a health screening prior to coming to work at Blandford Nature Center
  • Please be mindful of capacity limitations being imposed when visiting our center as a family/group/etc. Wait time may be longer for larger groups.

Thank you so much for your patience and understanding, we look forward to seeing you soon!


Upcoming events

Community Calendar

Wildlife Ambassadors

Blandford’s Wildlife Education Center is home to many animals with injuries. Several animals participate in educational programming and reach thousands of students and families in West Michigan!

Learn about our wildlife

Land Conservancy of West Michigan and The Highlands

Blandford Nature Center and the Land Conservancy of West Michigan collaborated on the purchase of the 121-acre former Highlands Golf Club in Grand Rapids in the winter of 2017 with a vision to transform the property into a natural area for community recreation, nature preservation, and land conservation.

Lady Bug