Mission and History
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.
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.
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'
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
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.
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.