Updated on May 31, 2024

Guest Writer: Fontenelle Forest

If you’re lucky enough to have a nature center or conservation area near you, one way you can show your support is by planning a visit. At Fontenelle Forest, we believe green spaces are a valuable community wellness resource that provide a place where people can escape and recharge.

Here are a few ways you can best experience your local nature preserve.

Exploring Local Nature

Hike the trails.

There is no better way to learn about an ecosystem than to spend time exploring it on a hike. Pay attention to how the landscape changes while you walk. Observe your local wildlife and their habitats. Take time to learn which wildflowers are native to your area and when they bloom. Remember: It’s important to stay on the trails. Hiking trails provide an opportunity to experience nature without disturbing it.

group hiking nature trail

Explore the trails during different seasons.

Find a nature center that is open year-round and make a point to explore the same location during different times of the year. Take note of how different it looks during the changing seasons. Experiencing your favorite trail draped in an umbrella of golden leaves, or coated with a sea of white snow, provides a completely different experience than a spring or summer hike. Added bonus: it is not as hot and there are fewer bugs! Some nature centers even provide different tools to aid guests in exploring the trails in the winter. For instance, at Fontenelle Forest, we rent snowshoes!

family enjoying nature

Sign up for events or programs.

Check out your nature center’s events calendar. Programs and summer camps provide the perfect opportunity to teach kids how to engage with nature in new ways. Look for classes geared towards adults and seniors too! Explore trails you haven’t yet ventured on by signing up for a guided hike or expand your knowledge of nature and local history through a lecture series.

children nature program owl

Let your little ones explore.

Spending time in nature has been proven to provide a variety of positive benefits for children. Spending time outdoors improves mental health, reduces stress, develops social skills, and results in better academic performance and overall happiness. Discover the joy of sharing nature with your child by going on outdoor adventures at your local nature center. Teach them to explore the different elements of nature by using their basic senses: look, listen, smell and touch (when safe to do so).

kids running fontenelle forest

Volunteer your time.

Volunteers are a vital part of many successful conservation areas. Help your local nature center by giving your time to support their efforts. From conservation and land management to education and administrative work, your time can make an impact not only for today but for generations to come.

planting trees volunteer outside

Utilize identification apps.

You don’t have to be a master naturalist to know what plants, animals and insects live in your local ecosystems. Try out free apps like Seek by iNaturalist or Merlin Bird ID to start learning about the interesting things you see while enjoying your time outside.

couple using nature app hiking

Learn from your local experts.

If your local nature center has staff available, don’t hesitate to ask questions! Whether you are curious about the plants and animals found in your area or want to better understand your nature center’s conservation efforts, seeking answers to your questions will only deepen your appreciation for the environment. Our staff is passionate about our work and we love the opportunity to share this with our members and guests.

outdoor guide hiking

Ask what unique experiences your local nature center provides.

Every nature center and conservation area offer their own unique experiences. We encourage you to visit your local green space today, learn about the local flora and fauna, and enjoy the outdoors in whatever way is meaningful to you!

To learn more about the various experiences available at Fontenelle Forest visit today! Located in Bellevue, Nebraska, just minutes from downtown and the Omaha zoo, the Forest is open daily, year-round. Daily admission and annual membership options are available. We hope to see you soon!

Check out these favorite national hiking spots from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom host Peter Gros. You might also like this article about what to pack on your next nature hike.


Article and photos courtesy of Fontenelle Forest.

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