Ottawa County Parks & Recreation
Nature Education Center
8115 West Olive Road, West Olive
Phone: (616) 786-4847
Visit the Nature Education Center, located within Hemlock Crossing Park! The center has exhibits, a wildlife den with critters and activities, a wildlife viewing area where you can watch birds and animals at the feeders, and a gift shop. The center also hosts a variety of educational programs for schools, groups and the public. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm and Sunday from noon to 5 pm. Directions: From US 31, travel west on Croswell Street to West Olive Road. Turn south on West Olive Road and travel a 1/2 mile to the entrance on the west side.
Facility ReservationsPlease call the Parks Office at (616) 738-4810 to schedule a visit, inquire about availability and make your reservation. This packet provides critical information you should know before you rent, plus helpful considerations while planning your event.
School, Scout & Other Youth Programs
We believe children are born with an innate sense of wonder about the natural world! Using many senses, we help children unlock the mysteries of nature and science with hands-on, fun educational experiences. School programs enhance and build upon concepts children are learning in the classroom. Programs have also been designed for Scouts to complete their badge requirements. Custom designed programs are also available. Please ask Kristin Hintz for details.
Preregistration or fees are required for some programs. See the descriptions below for details. Call 616-786-4847 to register. Guide Key: KH = Kristin Hintz CD = Curtis Dykstra
Sunday Family Hour
Bring your family for a story, activity or adventure! Family hours take place at Hemlock Crossing’s Nature Education Center. They are free and registration is not required, but appreciated. Call 616-786-4847. Titles and recommended ages are listed. For detailed descriptions, sign up for Nature E-mail, like us on Facebook or contact the Nature Education Center at 616-786-4847.
- March 2, 2pm, Sugaring Time. [Ages 6+]
- March 9, 2 pm,The Mystery Tree [Ages 8+]
- March 16, 2pm, Walking with Wonder [Ages 6+] Join us to experience the outdoors from a different perspective.
- March 23, 2pm, Early Signs of Spring [Ages 6+] We will search for the signs that tell us spring is coming through a walk and scavenger hunt.
- March 30, 2pm, Branches & Twig Art [Ages 6+] Join us to look at what is happening to twigs and branches in early spring. Then, return to the Nature Education Center where we'll create art with twigs.
- April 6, 2pm, Marsh & Meadow [Ages 6+] Explore the marsh and meadow as they awaken for springtime. Learn more about these important habitats and their emerging plants and creatures.
- April 13, 2pm, Water Cycle Wonders [Ages 6+] Water is a precious natural resource. We will read the book “A Drop Around the World” by Barbara McKinney and then play a high-energy water cycle game.
- April 27, 2pm, Fantastic Frogs & Toads [Ages 5+] Come find out about our native frogs and toads. Discover how life cycles of these amphibians differ from each other. Learn to distinguish the calls of several species and take a hike to our vernal pond to see what can be found.
- May 4, 2pm, Wildflower Worlds [Ages 9+] There are tiny worlds in places that we would never think to explore. Look closely and you might see things that will surprise you. Join a naturalist to explore the tiny worlds that our spring wildflowers shelter.
Coffee with the Birds
March 1, 10-11:30AM, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. Spend a Saturday morning with a hot beverage, baked good and fellow birders as you observe the feeders. Bring your curiosities and favorite mug. CD
A Close-Up Look at Twigs
February 22, 2-4PM, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. During the winter, twigs have unique characteristics including buds, bundle scars and leaf scars. These features are useful to identify plants. This program, for adults and older children, will begin indoors inspecting twigs followed by a hike to survey the trees. Free and registration is not required, but appreciated. KH
February 22, 7-8:30PM, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. Stars, like people, go through cycles: birth, life and death. Jim Reier of the Shoreline Amateur Astronomical Association describes this and tells how astronomers classify the stages of a star’s life.
Isle Royale: From Bucket List to Wonderful Adventure
March 8, 2-3:30PM, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. Naturalists Kelly Morrisey and Kristen Hintz share their adventures backpacking Isle Royale (with a nine year old). This presentation is filled with beautiful pictures, natural history, plus anecdotal stories and tips to prepare for your own trip. Special guest, Kayla Hintz, will share some of her backpacking stories from the perspective of a nine year old. This presentation is for all ages and all interests. You don't have to be a backpacker to enjoy the show.
Ottawa Owl Prowl
March 15, 7:30-9pm, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. After an introduction to the owls of Ottawa County, you’ll quietly prowl the woods to encounter them first-hand! CD
March 22, 2-3:30pm, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. Take a walk along the Pigeon River to look for some of the early signs of spring. KH
Supernovae and Black Holes
March 22, 7-8:30pm, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. Peter Burkey of the Shoreline Amateur Astronomical Association will describe the evolution and life cycle of very massive stars. This promises to be a rather heavy topic with a bright ending you won’t want to miss.
Secret Lives of SalamandersMarch 29, 7:30-9pm, Pine Bend. The first spring rains are ideal for salamander egg-laying. Bring your rubber boots and flashlights, and get ready for an adventure to woodland pools in search of salamanders! CD
Sensing Spring Walks
Join Karen Neils to discover the early signs of spring during these walks.
- March 30, 2-3:30pm, Kirk Park
- April 27, 2-3:30pm, Spring Grove
- May 1, 2-3:30pm, Grose Park
March 30, 7:30-9pm, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. Do you know how a woodcock walks and talks? Join us and experience, first hand, the behavior of this unique bird! CD
Various dates, 8-10am. Whether you are an avid birder or desire to experience more than backyard birds, join us and be immersed into the sights and sounds of spring bird migration. CD
Early Spring Along the Pigeon River
April 5, 2-3:30pm, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. Some plants and animals get an early start on the season. Join this hike to look and listen for spring along the Pigeon River. KH
Interested in learning how to identify wildflowers using the Newcomb's Wildflower guide? This focuses on identifying plants using a simple plant key that relies on basic plant characteristics. These Wednesday afternoon walks provide an opportunity for people to get outside, enjoy the spring changes and key out wildflowers with others who are interested, too. Loaner guide books will be available. KH
- April 9, 12-2pm, Rosy Mound
- April 16, 12-2pm, Spring Grove
- April 30, 12-2pm, Hager Park
- May 7, 12-2pm, Tunnel Park
- May 14, 12-2pm, Grand River Park
Reptiles of Michigan
April 12, 2-3:30pm, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. Learn about the snakes, turtles and lizards inhabiting Michigan! After an introduction to the history, distribution and identification of each species, we’ll hike in search of them. CD
Walk the Ravines
April 18, 10am-12pm, Grand River Ravines North. Join us to discover what is blooming and moving about. KH
Big Day Birding Trip
How many bird species can we find in one day? Each trip will traverse a different area of Ottawa County in search of water birds, raptors, songbirds and more! Choose the one you like. Free; however, registration is required. Details will be emailed to registrants. CD
- May 16, 7am-4pm, South
- May 23, 7am-4pm, North
Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. You need not be a frog or toad expert to be a citizen scientist. FrogWatch USA is a nationwide program where individuals and families collect and report information about wetlands, frog and toad populations. If you have an interest in frogs and toads and the ability to make several evening visits to a local wetland, become a volunteer.
- April 26, 10am-12:30pm
- May 31, 10am-12:30pm
April 26, 7-8:30pm, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. Our planet’s natural satellite is the Moon. It is the only extraterrestrial body where humans have set foot. Where did the Moon come from? What makes it stay in orbit around the Earth? Did it ever support life? Frank Roldan of the Shoreline Amateur Astronomical Association will shed some light on these questions.
Birding Optics & Equipment 101
May 3, 2-4pm, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. Do you want to improve your enjoyment of birds? We’ll show you to how to select and use binoculars, bird books and other birding equipment. A hike will follow. CD
Spring by Kayak
Enjoy the sights and sounds of spring along the Pigeon River by kayak! You will paddle the 3.5-mile stretch from Hemlock Crossing to Sheldon Landing with return transportation via carpool. No experience is needed. Each guided trip includes a kayaking lesson. The fee is $15 per person. There is an additional $26 fee for kayak rental, which includes the kayak, paddle and life jacket. Registration is required. A detailed letter will be sent prior to the trip. KH
- May 10, 12:30-3:30pm
- May 21, 12:30-3:30pm
- May 24, 12:30-3:30pm
- May 28, 12:30-3:30pm
Take an afternoon stroll with us from 2-3:30pm. You may be surprised at what you see along the way.
- May 11, Mt. Pisgah
- May 25, Riley Trails
- June 1, Upper Macatawa
- June 8, Grand River Park
Wonders of Migration
May 17, 2-4pm, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. How do birds travel thousands of miles without a map? Why do they do it? What perils do they encounter? Be amazed by the wonders of bird migration! A bird walk will follow. CD
Birding Basics for Kids
May 18, 2-4pm, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. Kids (ages 8+) will be introduced to the basics of bird identification, binoculars and the most important tools--their ears! We will also spend some time watching the feeders and walking outdoors. CD
May 24, 7-8:30pm, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. You won’t find any scorpions in your boots in Michigan, but you may find one in the sky. The Shoreline Amateur Astronomical Association’s Doug Mandrick will tell us about summer constellations, their lore, and how to find them. Clear skies permitting, we will go outside and find the summer constellations after the program.
Native Plant Sale
May 28, 6-9pm, Hemlock Crossing. Call the Nature Education Center for details and an order form.
June 7, 2-3:30pm, Hemlock Crossing. After a brief indoor introduction, we will search for butterflies and other insects in the native grassland along the trails. KH
Parks Administration Office
12220 Fillmore St.
West Olive, MI 49460
8:00am - 5:00pm
Fax: (616) 738-4812
(888) 731-1001 ext.4810
General Park Hours*March 1 - October 15
7:00am - 10:00pm
October 16 - February 28
7:00am - 8:00pm