Visit Harris Nature Center
Meridian Township provides a park or natural area within 15-20 minute walk of every Township resident. That is approximately 2000 steps (on your pedometer) closer to
a healthier lifestyle. With over 900 acres of land on 29 park properties with 20 miles of trails and 76 miles of pedestrian/bicycle pathways, we have numerous opportunities for you and your family to enjoy getting to your destination of choice along the Trails of Meridian. Check out our parks!
Eastgate Park is located at the far eastern edge of Meridian Township and makes up 53 acres of a larger park called Meridian Riverfront Park. This land was purchased in 1986 with the assistance of a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant. Eastgate Park has nature trails that follow the shoreline of the Red Cedar River and connect to the trails of the Harris Nature Center. You can also find a bicycle pump track at this park that was construction by residents and members of the Michigan Mountain Bike Association in 2009.
Meridian Riverfront Park Map
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How can I find out more about the Harris Nature Center Foundation?
The Harris Nature Center Foundation (HNCF) is a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization. All donations to HNCF are tax deductible. They raise funds for programs, exhibits and nature center building improvements.
The Harris Nature Center Foundation was established by Meridian Township in 2006 to support the Harris Nature Center by raising funds for program, exhibit, and nature center building improvements. After spending some time with administrative duties, such as writing the by-laws and applying for non-profit status, the Directors turned their attention to early fundraising efforts towards enriching the nature center and introducing the Foundation to the community.
What is the History of the Harris Nature Center?
The Harris Nature Center (HNC) opened its doors to the public in 1997. Situated along the Red Cedar River and nestled between Eastgate Park and Legg Park within Meridian Riverfront Park, its focus is on protecting, promoting and interpreting the Red Cedar River through educational opportunities. Meridian Township purchased the HNC property with Land and Water Conservation funds in 1986 from Paul and Vila Allen for $240,000.
One tenet of that grant was the intent to turn the 65-year old house located on the property into a public nature center. Ten years later, on June 8, 1996, the Township broke ground for the renovations to convert the house into a nature center building. On July 22, 1997, HNC officially opened and began offering environmental activities and outdoor recreation opportunities to the public. A 1/2 mile paved trail was added in July of 1999 to provide access for everyone to enjoy the woods, meadows and riverside viewing. The HNC is home to a multitude of Michigan wildlife, and may be seen as you walk on the trails. Other animals are part of exhibits in and around the building.
These animals are either temporary residents or they are permanently injured in some way and cannot be released back into the wild. HNC is the only nature center in Mid-Michigan dedicated to the preservation of the Red Cedar River. It is also the only center in the Lansing Area to house Red-tailed Hawks. HNC features animal exhibits, interpretive displays, a Nature Exploration Area and Red Cedar River Overlook. Over the years, HNC enhanced exhibits and nature programs, and added features such as the river overlook deck, fishing dock and canoe launch for visitors to use. In 2012 they launched the Nature Exploration Area with its first feature, a turtle sculpture.
That was followed with the log jam, sticks and stones, Haslett-Okemos Rotary Club gathering circle, spider web climber and Michigan fossil dig. The project is financed by the Harris Nature Center Foundation with support from a multitude of local businesses, service clubs and individuals. More features will be added in the future with the beaver lodge currently in progress.
HNC offers a wide variety of events and programs to the public. The largest events offered each year include Winter Wonderland, Nature Connection Day Camps and Halloween Adventures. Throughout the year guided walks, campfire programs, family nature programs, adult classes, stewardship opportunities and much more are offered.
What is the Mission of the Harris Nature Center?
The mission of the Harris Nature Center is to protect, promote and interpret the Red Cedar River and its surrounding ecosystems. Through creative exhibits, programs and exploration of the native environment of the Harris Nature Center, visitors are encouraged to observe, experience and appreciate this representative slice of mid-Michigan riverine habitat.