About Blandford

Blandford believes families learn best through personal experience!

Our mission and vision

The mission of Blandford is to engage and empower our community through enriching experiences in nature. Our vision is a thriving, diverse community that supports a healthy, natural world.

What we believe in

Inclusion: Intentionally welcoming and embracing everyone.
Stewardship: Responsibly using and caring for all our resources.
Integrity: Demonstrating honesty, authenticity and transparency within our organization and community.
Experiential: Providing opportunities to enjoy, explore and learn in nature.
Partnership: Connecting and collaborating to effectively serve our community.
Innovation: Using creativity and curiosity to continuously improve.

About Us Images

Educate. Engage. Empower.

We let visitors get their hands dirty.

We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit whose job and passion is to invite our community to enjoy, explore, and learn in nature. We make this happen by allowing our visitors to get their hands dirty—whether that be standing knee-high in water to learn about stream ecology or planting squash seeds to start a garden. This is accomplished through an active outdoor environmental lab, a team of passionate, knowledgeable people and a strong link from past to future promoting sustainability. Blandford offers a wide variety of experiences to support our mission and vision through dynamic partnerships and innovative programming for all ages.

Our history

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.


Heritage Village

Enjoy a walk through Heritage Village with buildings as old as 1853. These historical buildings provide the perfect background for photos and programs. The buildings are closed weekdays and weekends during business hours, however, they are open with interpreters during festivals & events such as Sugarbush Festival, Earth Day, and more.