Volunteer for Durango Nature Studies–9-2011

I spent five minutes pulling the starter cord and adjusting the choke and throttle on the little pump without a whimper of a start. Then I realized that it would help to turn the switch to “on”.

In addition to the Four Corners Folk Festival, I spent much of this past Labor Day weekend at the Durango Nature Center. It was calm there. The shrill cry of a red tailed hawk made me look up. Once I was buzzed by a great blue heron, and another time I saw her waiting in the shallow water of the Florida River, upstream from the footbridge. My constant companions were lizards, including several “horny toads”. Occasionally I caught the perfume of sagebrush.

The meadow where kids play and learn suffered from drought and the grass was drying up. The only hope was to pump water out of the Florida River. Thanks to Ted’s Rental for loaning the pump and some hose borrowed from neighbors, I was able to rig up a sprinkler.

The pump ran for an hour or two—not nearly enough time to deep water the parched soil—thus the need for multiple trips. Hopefully there will be more green for the Children Discovering Nature program this fall.

Except for the dry meadow, Durango Nature Studies is thriving with the imaginative leadership of Sally Shuffield. Most notable is a new contract with the 9R School District to develop and implement innovative curricula for all kids in grades kindergarten through five. Along with the Discovery Museum, DNS will provide both classroom and field trips with hands-on experiences for these lucky children. They will learn about nature through Children Discovering Nature, and Surviving and Thriving in Winter. Students from other school districts can still attend.

There are many other programs, too! New ones include the New Moon hikes at the Nature Center and the After School Nature Club. Full Moon hikes and Wee Walkabouts are still popular. Kids love the summer camp, and older kids can enjoy a backpacking camp. For information about other DNS doings, consult the website:

Most exciting is the news that we will soon have a welcome building at the Nature Center! Thanks to generous contributions from BP and many other businesses and individuals in the community, there will be a small log cabin next to the parking lot. Although rustic, it will provide shelter and a place to greet visitors, and perhaps to sell books and souvenirs.

Having a welcome building will allow DNS to open up the Nature Center for visitors on weekends. This will probably start next spring and will just be on a limited basis, but will allow visitors to enjoy this beautiful land.

Much of our country has been turned to serve human needs—agriculture, housing, commercial and industrial uses. This becomes a serious problem as our human population rises. Fortunately we have preserved some land relatively intact, and we live close to some of the best wild areas in the country. The Durango Nature Center is 140 acres of beautiful land near Bondad that has been kept natural so people can enjoy and learn. DNS concentrates on young people, but also serves adults.

Despite our proximity to extensive natural beauty, too many kids spend most of their lives in buildings or vehicles. They are more familiar with TVs and Game Boys than with birds and trees. The goal of DNS is to get youngsters outside so they are comfortable and enjoy being out-of-doors. What they enjoy they will also value.

What makes DNS run? Volunteers! Its programs could never exist without the help from dozens of people. In addition to the three DNS staff, there are many unpaid people who lead walks, board members and people in the community who donate time, services and money.

The training sessions for a new group of CDN leaders has just finished. It included Fort Lewis professor Dr. Alane Brown and a handful of her students. Dr. Brown hopes to join the Peace Corps as an environmental educator; her students chose this service as an alternative to writing a term paper.

About 50 volunteers gave a total of 2283 hours of their time last year to teach our children about the natural world. The monetary value of all this time is over $40,000! Remember, nature is in danger of being overwhelmed by our population growth. DNS helps today’s children—our future decision makers—learn about and love the natural world.

© Richard Grossman MD, 2011



By Richard

I am a retired obstetrician-gynecologist who has been fortunate to live and work in the wonderful community of Durango, Colorado for 40 years.

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