BRISTOL – The Environmental Learning Centers of Connecticut Inc. (ELCCT) is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
The city seeking to acquire nearby land to preserve as open space is good timing, said Executive Director Scott Heth. “We owe the origin of our organization to the first 40 acres that was acquired 50 years ago on Shrub Road, which is now the Harry C. Barnes Memorial Nature Center.”
“Fast forward 50 years, we now have about 750 acres of land in Bristol, Burlington, and Southington, which includes the Indian Rock Nature Preserve right on Route 69, across from Cedar Lake,” said Heth, who gave a presentation about ELCCT to the City Council recently.
“The mission of ELCCT is to inspire the appreciation and enjoyment of nature through education and conservation, fostering a healthy environment and improved quality of life,” he said. “We do that in many different ways.”
The Barnes Nature Center is the organization’s community nature center, open for general visitation, he said. “We encourage people to come walk the trails, visit the exhibits, see our animals, to take part in our programs.”
“If you haven’t been there recently in the last few years, I encourage you to come over because we’ve done a lot of work on the building and the exhibits. It’s really a fantastic place,” he told the city councilors.
Indian Rock Nature Preserve on Wolcott Road is the environmental education wing, he continued. “It’s not open to general visitation, but this is where we do our school programs – for thousands of school children each year through field trips. It’s where we do special events, like the Santa’s Farm we just had.”
Heth said it’s also home to the Indian Rock summer camp. “Our goal is to get kids outside, away from the phones and video games, to spend time with nature during the summer. Last summer we had record attendance at the Indian Rock summer camp,” he said.
There are health, educational, and social benefits to being in nature, he said. “Last year, all told we educated about 23,000 children and adults through our various programs, and we continue to grow.”
Heth said last summer he hired Kirsten Tomlinson as director of education. She is moving the education programs forward at a very fast rate, he said, “as a result I now have an open position for a full time educator, who is going to help us meet the demand for those programs.”
He encouraged the public to check out ELCCT’s web site and consider signing up to be one of the organization’s approximately 250 volunteers.
“Thanks again for the opportunity” to speak, he told the councilor, “and don’t forget to spend some time outside with your family and friends.”
For more information about ELCCT, visit http://elcct.org/.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.