Frequently Asked Questions

Visiting Blandford

Why does Blandford charge admission? Don’t my tax dollars support you?

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 trails, conduct building maintenance, host land stewardship projects, and more. This 2013 MLive article gives more details if you are interested in learning more.

Do I have to pay admission if I only want to walk on the trails?

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.

Can I bring my Service Animal inside the Visitor Center and on the trails?

In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service animals are welcome at Blandford Nature Center. Please read our full 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.

What is there to to do at Blandford?
  • 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
  • Sign your child up for a Seasonal Camp during winter, spring, and/or summer
  • Explore our historical buildings in Heritage Village
  • Book one of our spacious, unique rental spaces through Vault Catering for your next event
  • 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, visit the Children’s Garden, and see produce in the Greenhouse
  • Enjoy outdoor play with your children by spending time in our Nature Nook playscape
  • Marvel at the rotating, local art exhibits installed in the Visitor Center’s auditorium
  • 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 Owl Prowl, Kombucha Workshops, and more

Do I need to let Blandford know if I’m bringing out a group for a self-guided exploration?

Groups of 10 or more are required to call ahead. Call 616-735-6240 to let us know you are coming and we ask for at least 24 hours notice. 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 off limits. Trail packs may be checked out at the Visitor Services desk to aid in your self-exploration.

Is there a Rapid bus route to Blandford Nature Center?

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.

When are the historical buildings open?

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 

Can I walk my dog(s) at Blandford?

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).

Can I ride my bike on the trails?

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.

Can I play in the creek?

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.

Can I use my snowshoes or cross-country skis on Blandford’s trails?

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 by 4:45pm each day.

Do you allow individuals or scout troops to camp overnight on the property?

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

Does Blandford accept injured wildlife?

We no longer accept injured wild animals for rehabilitation. Please refer to the list of rehabilitators for assistance with rescue and rehab of wild animals.

Where can I take injured wildlife in need of rehab?

Wildlife Rehab Center | 616-361-6109 | wildliferehabcenter.org

Lowell Farm & Wildlife Center | 616-883-4223 | farmwildlife.org

Click here for a list of other Michigan Licensed Rehabilitators

I have a pest causing issues on my property. Can I trap it and drop it off at Blandford?

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

For help with pests on your personal property, please contact one of the wildlife control services on our Resources page.

What should I do if I find an abandoned baby animal?

Many baby animals do not need our help. If the animal is injured, contact one of the wildlife rehabilitators and wait for their assistance on what to do.

School Trips

What makes a trip to Blandford special?

Blandford Nature Center (BNC) field trips allow your students to answer big questions in a hands-on, natural environment. BNC 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.

How do I set up a field trip?

Please email the Blandford Registrar at registrar@blandfordnaturecenter.org with the following information:

  • School/organization name
  • School/organization address
  • 1st choice date and time
  • 2nd choice date and time
  • Contact person name
  • Contact phone number
  • Student information
    • Total # of students
    • Grade level(s)
    • Special needs or ESL/ELL info (if applicable)
  • Program requested

Please keep in mind that we have a 60 student-per-program maximum. If you’d like to bring additional students, we can frequently accommodate either by: 1) scheduling multiple days; or 2) by arranging for half of your group to take a self-guided tour while the other half takes a guided program and then flip-flopping.

To get a full list of programs, visit our website by clicking here. Please note, most programs are 90 minutes and have a $5 per student fee.

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

What can I expect on the day of our trip?

Blandford programs ask big questions for hands-on exploration. Anticipate that your students will spend most of their 90 minutes outside in the elements. Please make sure they 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.

What if we need to reschedule or cancel?

Weather Cancellation: If the National Weather Service issues a severe weather warning we will cancel the program; there is no fee for cancelling due to severe weather. We will attempt to reschedule based on availability. If your school calls a snow day, there is no fee for cancelling. 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.

All Other Cancellations: For all non-weather cancellations, notice must be sent to the Registrar at registrar@blandfordnaturecenter.org and received at least 21 business days before the scheduled program to receive a full refund and avoid a $50.00 cancellation fee. This policy does not apply to cases of inclement weather or programs that are rescheduled (based on availability).

Attendance Refunds: Refunds will be issued if more than 5 students are missing from the program date. Refunds will have a 5% handling fee.

How many chaperones should we bring?

Please plan to bring one chaperone for every five students. If you bring more chaperones, we will charge $5 / chaperone in excess of your 1:5 ratio. Please give us advance notice if you’ll be bringing more than 3 extra chaperones.

What can my chaperones expect?

Your chaperones will all be included in your group’s introduction, then will break up into groups and follow educators for the remainder of the program. We have laminated information sheets available for chaperones to read during the introduction. Chaperones are requested to model appropriate behavior (listening to the educator, not pulling students aside for photos or having side conversations while the educator is teaching), to assist the educator with any materials if asked (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.

How much does a trip cost?

We charge $5/student with a program minimum of $80.

Why do we need to pre-pay?

As soon as we send your confirmation, 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 you bring at least five fewer students than anticipated, we will offer a refund minus a 5% processing fee. We appreciate your understanding.

Do you offer scholarships?

Yes! We offer scholarships to schools where at least 85% of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch. The per pupil cost is reduced from $5 to $3; please inquire with the Registrar when you register to see if you qualify for a scholarship.

What happens if our day-of numbers are different than expected?

If your group brings at least five students fewer than expected, we will refund you the cost of those absent students, minus a 5% processing fee. If between scheduling and paying your invoice your student count changes, please send an email to registrar@blandfordnaturecenter.org and we will update your invoice

What if my group is running late?

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.

Can members of my group use their BNC membership to pay for their 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. In the case of inclement weather, we will try to accommodate, but cannot guarantee, an inside space for your group. We do not have refrigeration facilities for lunches, so please bring coolers for any lunches that may need them.

Can I extend my Blandford experience?

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

  • 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).
  • Many of our programs have additional content stations that we can add to your experience. Our Anishinabek Lifeways program can be extended into a full-day experience; Pioneer Life can be extended by 30 minutes; and Snowy Survivors can be extended by 30 minutes to include a free snowshoe hike.

If you’re interested in extending your time here, our Registrar would be happy to explain your options. (Extended programs are dependent on educator and space availability. If you’d like an extended program, please book as early as possible.)

Giving, Donations & Volunteering

What is the minimum amount of volunteers required for a Service Work Day?

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.

What is the minimum amount of time my service group can spend out at Blandford Nature Center?

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.

Can our Service Group make a donation or pay for a specific project during our Service Work Day?

As a non-profit, Blandford doesn’t always have resources set aside for some of our wishlist projects. Feel free to not only do the hands-on work but 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

How do I get my student into the Blandford School?

Grand Rapids Public Schools runs the Blandford Environmental Education Program that is housed on the Nature Center’s property. Click here for more information about Blandford School.