The place now known as Blandford Nature Center began as Collins Woods, part of the Collins family farm. It was the place Dr. Mary Jane Dockeray explored as a child and nurtured her love of the outdoors. In time, Victor Blandford purchased the farm from the Collins family and began to sell it off as lots.
In 1949, Mary Jane began working for the Grand Rapids Public Museum as a nature lecturer. Eventually, Mary Jane convinced the Blandford family to donate 17 acres to the museum for the development of a nature center, and she became the curator. In the summer of 1965, the Museum Association agreed to help seek the funds necessary for building a visitor center, which opened in 1968. Over time, Mary Jane found state dollars to purchase more land, bringing the Grand Rapids city-owned land to 143 acres.
In 2003, Blandford was cut from the Grand Rapids Public Museum and entered its “rocky” years. It was managed by Grand Rapids Public Schools for four years and in 2007 merged with the nonprofit Mixed Greens (a school garden project). Neither organization was able to provide the funding or oversight needed to manage the property and maintain its educational programming in a way that benefited the community.
In 2009, the Wege Foundation stepped up and provided five years of funding for an Executive Director to stabilize the organization and rebuild it as an asset for the community. Blandford Nature Center has been a thriving independent, charitable 501(c)(3) nonprofit ever since.
1715 Hillburn Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504 (map)