‘A unique place’: Volunteers turn out to help Stokes Nature Center

Around 40 people volunteered Saturday at Stokes Nature Center in Logan Canyon to do trail maintenance and enhance recreational areas where children play.

Nature Preschool director Sadie Enright oversaw the projects and said she was surprised and pleased with the turn out.

“We have way more people than I was expecting today,” Enright said. “We probably have about 20 kids and adults to go with them. I was expecting five or six adults and maybe 10 kids.”

She said the people who come to volunteer as well as those who visit the nature center are a “great group of people.”

“There’s something about the nature center,” Enright said. “I feel like it just is a magnet for people who are community minded and love the outdoors. They’re not afraid to get dirty, and they’re not afraid to let their kids get dirty.”

Enright said most of the people who end up coming to Stokes aren’t squeamish, but all are welcome. She said kids who come there always have a blast.

“There’s a comfort level to it, no matter what your level is,” she said. “When we’re inside and have programs that have to do with bugs or animals, those aren’t for everyone, but we still get people who come up who just want to give it a try even if they’re not sure they’re going to like it, and that’s awesome.”

Enright has worked on and off at the nature center since 2003. She said its location is a big challenge for the facility.

“You have to have parents who are willing to cross the highway with their kids and hike half a mile up the trail,” Enright said. “Or when we do preschool, we drop off at the gate. … When the weather is great, that’s wonderful. They love it. … But in the winter, it’s treacherous.”

She said days when people come to volunteer are vital because the staff of three is tiny. She said every day she sees things that need to be done but usually doesn’t have the manpower to do anything about it.

She said it’s also challenging to get the word out for events. There are many instances when the programs they hold don’t fill up, but she said she doesn’t think it’s because people aren’t interested.

“I think it’s because people don’t know,” she said. “It’s hard to spread the word.”

Susan MacMurdo has a son who was a student at the preschool this past year and volunteers at the nature center frequently. She was volunteering there Saturday, cutting down dead tree branches.

She said she feels the center is a unique place and decided to enroll her son in the preschool because it was different than other places around Cache Valley. She hopes to send her daughter there in the future.

“I think that in general schools are kind of absurd with what they require of kids starting from kindergarten, so I was like, ‘He’s going to be under enough pressure,’” MacMurdo said. “I wanted something that was not academically rigorous, like trying to shove reading and math down a kid’s throat, but I wanted something with a nature or a science or arts emphasis.”

She said she liked how Stokes Nature Center gives kids a chance to creatively play on their own with natural materials instead of playing with plastic toys or on screens. She said she loves that the kids who go to Stokes get the chance to play outside every day.

Enright encourages people who have been to or know about the center to tell their friends. She also said she’d love to hear more ideas from community members of things they’d be interested in trying.

Though people can pay a fee to become members, Enright said anyone can register for programs. Some programs are free and others require a charge, which is discounted for members.

Enright said they have planned to get a new website in the fall that is easier to navigate, but for now those seeking further information can visit logannature.org.

The next volunteer day for the center will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 22.

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