Is the WNC Nature Center considered Nature?

The last post about my granddaughters for a while.

Yesterday three generations of Bernsteins went on a Carolina Mountain Club to the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. I wish someone had taken a picture of them. But I took care of Isa, not quite five years old, who wasn’t ready for an 8.5-mile hike.

We went to the WNC Nature Center, a local Asheville zoo. It’s the perfect family place for the young child. They specialize in Southern Appalachian animals, such as playful river otters, elusive red foxes and coyotes. And of course, there are farm animals to pet. A pretty interesting place for a pre-kindergardner.

A couple of things differentiates the WNC Nature Center from a national or state park. I’m not talking about the size. First, I noted advertisements of all kinds for donors. Look at the top picture. On the bottom left is an ad for the Yellow Pages. You couldn’t do that in a park. I’ve never even seen a face cut-out like that in a park.

Donors get to name a bench or rock. It seems like every place that could be named has the potential of being named. I wonder if donors give more if they can get public recognition. Every Friends group in a national park has to have a donor recognition plan, approved by someone in the park service. You can’t just name everything is sight. So your donors have to care about the resource such as the park, not the recognition.

The Nature Center also has a slide–for kids as well as for otters. Isa must have slid down over 30 times: when we got there, in the middle of our visit and before we left. Several adults slid down as well.

But nothing could beat the rope jungle gym. Isa went up and down several times, in different ways. I watched her without ever saying “Be careful”, a meaningless phrase anyway meant to quiet down the adult.

You won’t find a playground in a national park, probably not in a state park. Is that keeping families away from parks that are meant to protect resources? We walked the Trillium Trail, a 0.75-mile trail that was “nature” but we were the only ones on the trail. Everyone else was walking on the paved trail.

So I ask the question. When statistics are collected about “nature-deficit” problems and children not being connected to nature, what do they consider nature?

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