Mission and History

Mission Statement
The New Canaan Nature Center is a not-for-profit environmental education center and sanctuary dedicated to helping people of all ages better understand, appreciate and care for the world of nature.

Our History
The Nature Center was established in 1960 on the former estate of Miss Susan Dwight Bliss. This 40 acre site was given to the Town of New Canaan for the study of nature, horticulture and related sciences. The Town continues to own the land and buildings, and provides maintenance support. The Nature Center's wide array of innovative environmental education programs generate more than 60% of its annual revenues. The remaining is raised through membership, private donations from individuals, foundations and corporations as well as through special events.

Our Land
The New Canaan Nature Center features diverse habitats, including wet and dry meadows and woodlands, two ponds, dense thickets, an old orchard and a cattail marsh. Two miles of trails criss-cross the site that is one of the six largest tracks of open space in New Canaan. Our trails and grounds are open from dawn to dusk and admission is free to the public. In addition to our natural trails, visitors are welcome to enjoy an arboretum and a variety of gardens including the Sally Waters Herb Garden, James L. Crider Memorial Bird and Butterfly Garden, the Swallen Wildflower Garden, and Susan B. Hanson Memorial Naturalists' Garden.

Our Facilites
Our interactive Discovery Room and Nature Gift Shop are located in our Visitors Center. The Animal Care Building houses our live animal teaching collection and a live Birds of Prey exhibit open to the public. The Bliss Education Building and Educational Annex house our Beginner's Nature Program as well as classrooms used for Summer Camp, Birthday Parties, Scout programs and many other community, youth and family programs. Many of the New Canaan Nature Center buildings are renovated structures from the former Bliss Estate, given to the Town of New Canaan in 1959. Also open to the public are a teaching tropical greenhouse, maple syrup shed, Naturalist's Garden, Butterfly Garden, Wildflower Garden and Herb Garden.

Our Staff
The Nature Center employs more than 35 full-time, part-time and seasonal staff who are dedicated professionals. Approximately one-third attend to the administration of the Nature Center and two-thirds to the educational programs. Our educators come from diverse backgrounds; many hold Masters degrees and all have extensive experience in the environmental education profession. Our teachers believe in the benefits of an interactive learning environment. We are dedicated to providing programs that include experiences involving hands-on lessons in a comfortable learning atmosphere. We strive to deliver programs that meet the needs of mixed audiences.

Volunteers, numbering 650 strong, expand the opportunity for the New Canaan Nature Center to serve the community by contributing 25,000 hours annually. Their support in programming, animal care, greenhouse, garden and trail care, administration and fundraising can be valued at more than $400,000 each year.

Our Philosophy
We strive to create a deeper understanding and concern for the natural world through programs and exhibits that stress enjoyable and active, hands-on learning. We believe that personal awareness and involvement will enable citizens to make intelligent decisons relating to the future of our environment. We value life-long learning and the appreciation and enjoyment of the peaceful and renewing aspects of nature.