Spring has sprung: City promoting nature in new programs this year

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Greenfield Birders meets twice a month, April through October, in Greenfield parks.

Submitted photo

GREENFIELD – Greenfield residents don’t have to go further than their own back yard to enjoy the great outdoors, and the city’s parks department is ramping up nature programs this spring and summer to promote that concept.

It’ll be a year of celebration, as the new Thornwood Nature Center opens and a series of educational programs about butterflies, birds, bees and more are designed to bring residents together to enjoy Greenfield’s natural beauty.

“The wildlife and the amount of nature that’s just imbedded in Greenfield is something that’s really unique,” said Madison Ritchison, programs and event specialist for Greenfield Parks and Recreation.

There are 445 acres of parks in Greenfield, counting the many paved trails that connect them.

Ritchison has been working with Joe Whitfield, naturalist for the parks department, to line up a series of nature-themed programs. Coming up April 27 is “Nature in Your Own Backyard,” allowing people to discover the biodiversity in their own community. Snakes will be featured in a program May 4. Indiana butterflies will be highlighted May 18, as well as fireflies in an evening program May 25.

“Our mission is to be ambassadors for nature and recreation,” said Ritchison, adding that the department and parks board over a year ago decided to make nature just as much of a focus of Greenfield Parks as recreation is.

Thornwood Nature Preserve is a 40-acre woodland on the city’s south side that opened to the public in 2016, and features seven trails, three creeks, a suspension bridge and more. It will be the hub of most nature activities, with its new nature center – a repurposed animal management trailer – opening later this summer with educational exhibits of animals and insects native to central Indiana. The city is still accepting donations of taxidermized animals and insect collections to put on display at the center.

Whitfield is looking forward to teaching some subjects, but also bringing in other local experts for programs coming up this spring and summer. He said the classes will be for all ages, striking a balance of interesting tidbits for adults, but keeping it simple enough to hold the attention of children.

“It looks like if everything goes right, it’ll be an exciting summer for nature programs,” said Whitfield, adding that he can help people delve deeper into topics if they want. “If they want to learn more, I can put them in touch with people to learn more.”

Perhaps giving back is your thing: help maintain invasive plants that are negatively impacting the city’s parks in a Weed Wrangle May 27.

While Thornwood Nature Preserve is certainly a good hub for all things nature, there are gems throughout the city of Greenfield to explore plants and view wildlife. Walkers or bikers traveling down the Pennsy Trail, for example, can take a connector trail to Brandywine Park and often see deer along the way, Ritchison said.

Greenfield Birders will kick off their spring bird watching events this month. The community club partners with Greenfield Parks to promote bird watching and protect habitats in Brandywine Park, Beckenholdt Park and Thornwood Nature Preserve.

April 13 is the first day for bird watching at Beckenholdt Park, and there are two bird watching events each month through October. For a complete list, visit facebook.com/groups/GreenfieldBirders.

For updates on nature programs at Thornwood Preserve, visit facebook.com/greenfieldparks. Registration for events can be found at parksingreenfield.com. For more information or to donate to the Thornwood Nature Center project, call 317-477-4340.