Thoughts on where we're headed in 2018.
I wanted to let you know about some exciting developments here at Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center. As you may know, I joined the team in October as the new President. My start in outdoor education came during college when I had the opportunity to work with youth at a summer camp in Mentone, Alabama. Working every day in nature feels like a natural continuation of that work, and I couldn’t be more excited to be here.
Our educational mission is more important than ever. This year, our staff worked with over 16,000 students who now better understand the connection between the choices they make and their local ecology. Our environmental educators provide these students with a welcome diversion from (and application of) their textbook learning. I recently tagged along on a site visit and it was amazing to watch an auditorium full of elementary kids light up with wonder and awe in the presence of a live barred owl.
While we have much to teach, we also have much to learn. Over the course of the few months I’ve been here, I’ve been on a listening tour, collecting information, opinions and yes...plenty of gripes.
I have come away with a deep respect for how many of you consider this landscape a special place for reflection and escape from the worries of modern life.
Photo by Jeff Guenther
I’ve heard that your yards are like a mini Reflection Riding, populated over the years with native plants from our sales. I’ve heard many of you who enjoy having dogs with you (on a leash) for your walk or run. The families I’ve spoken to who use our canoes appreciate avoiding the hassle of transporting their own boats. But many of the people I’ve spoken with have no idea what treasures await here. “Hidden gem” is a common term I hear to describe this place, but remaining hidden won’t allow us to continue the important work we have to do here.
We face a massive challenge! Kids and adults alike increasingly experience pressures unknown to previous generations.
Constant notifications and mobile connectivity have driven us to distraction, causing or exacerbating issues like nervousness, anxiety, ADHD and depression. We are increasingly disconnected from nature, and our quality of life suffers as a result.
But we know the solution…
As Florence Williams explains in The Nature Fix, a book I recommend to everyone I meet:
“We all need nearby nature: we benefit cognitively and psychologically from having trees, bodies of water, and green spaces just to look at.”
We have 317 acres of nature just waiting for you to experience, every day if you’d like.
Here a few ways we’re working to connect YOU with nature in 2018:
Remaining open and providing events throughout the winter season.
As always, offering members year-round access to the park from dawn to dusk.
Expanding our popular Taylor Talks, adding themes like “Hike with a Hawk.”
Prioritizing adult education, adding a new lecture series.
Continuing popular programs like the native plant certification course.
Strengthening partnerships and programming with important local groups like Wild Ones, Tennessee Ornithological Society, American Rhododendron Society and others.
Maintaining our status as a Level IV arboretum, the highest available certification.
Continuing to care for and host research on behalf of our endangered red wolves.
Launching a new docent program to further engage volunteers and enrich the visitor experience.
Photo by Jeff Guenther
We intend to take this place from “hidden gem” to “crown jewel.” We’ve taken some important first steps, but we can’t do this alone. As we close out the year and look forward to what’s next, we need your help. Please consider joining or renewing your support today.
For existing members, gift memberships support our mission while sharing the benefits of nature with someone you love. Or, consider sponsoring a child who can’t afford to visit; $13.50 per child covers transportation and lunch.
You can extend your impact year-round by becoming a sustaining supporter with an automatic monthly charge, allowing us to prioritize your contribution to the areas of greatest need.
We hope you’re as excited as we are about where we’re headed. Your tax-deductible year-end gift will ensure that we can continue to connect people with nature, all year long.
Mark McKnight, President