The New Canaan Nature Center is a not-for-profit educational
organization with unique features and strengths including a wide variety
of environmental education programs
recognized locally, regionally and even nationally, for their quality
and innovative features.
Located on a 40-acre site in the heart of New Canaan, the Nature
Center is home to an unusual variety of habitats that provide a sanctuary
open to the public, as well as an excellent outdoor classroom.
The New Canaan Nature Center's facilities,
beautiful grounds, and special events serve to engage the community,
provide resources to outside groups and offer broad ranging volunteer
opportunities for people of all ages.
Administration and Finances
- This 50-year-old not-for-profit organization has quadrupled in
size in the last 13 years, and is now over a $1.5 million business
with a $1.5 million endowment and more than 25 full-time and part-time
- The administration of this community resource is overseen by a
13-person Board of Trustees, the members of which are drawn from
both the Town of New Canaan and surrounding communities; an 11-person
Advisory Board also provides guidance in planning.
- The Nature Center's wide array of innovative environmental education
programs generate more than 60% of its annual revenues. The remaining 40% has to be raised each year through
membership dues, private donations from individuals, foundations
and corporations, and through special events such as the Secret
Garden Tour and Fall Fair.
- The New Canaan Nature Center receives in-kind support from the
Town of New Canaan. Services include exterior maintenance, utilities,
lawn care and snow removal. The Nature Center manages the property
including trails, tree care, gardens, interior building maintenance
and many exterior improvements.
- Volunteers, numbering 650 strong,
contribute 25,000 hours-valued at more than $400,000 annually-in
Board and Committee leadership, administrative support, fundraising,
special events management, animal care, maintenance, greenhouse,
and garden and trail care.
- Each year NCNC delivers over 1,000 school
and after-school programs
to more than 10,000 school children, ages 2-18, from nearly 20 different
communities in Connecticut and New York.
- LINKS, the Nature Center's largest school program,partners suburban and urban students to experience
diversity through its award-winning environmental science curriculum.
It is one of the largest and longest-standing Inter-district Cooperative
Grant programs in the State of Connecticut.
- The nature-focused New Canaan Nature Center Preschool is one of the largest in the community and serves
over 100 families each year, by providing an unhurried introduction
to the joy of learning to 3, 4 and 5 year olds. The professional
staff incorporates seasonal themes, daily trail walks and visits
with live animals in a curriculum that nurtures each child's social,
emotional, creative, physical and cognitive development.
- 500 children, ages 3-16, can experience nature each summer through
the creative, hands-on activities which make up the Nature Center's
unique Summer Camp. Older
students enjoy many informal environmental experiences off-site
either on one-day or week-long adventures to locations like the Adirondacks and Maine.
- Youth and Family Programs, which include Scout,
outreach, and weekend Youth & Family
Programs, as well as Birthday
Parties is our fastest growing program area, serving approximately
5,500 children and their families through imaginative nature-based
- NCNC serves as a satellite
site for the New York Botanical Gardens horticulture
and flower-arranging classes. This cooperative relationship
provides close to 300 adults each year with a wide array of first-class
programs including NYBG's widely regarded certification classes.
Facilities and Collections
- The New Canaan Nature Center, located on a 40-acre, town-owned
site, also known as Bliss Park, features an unusual diversity of
habitats, including wet and dry meadows, two ponds, wet and dry
woodlands, dense thickets, an old orchard and a cattail marsh. It
is among the largest tracts of public open space in New Canaan.
Two miles of hiking trails crisscross
- Except for the Greenhouse, Visitors
Center and Animal Care facility, all buildings are renovated
structures from the former Bliss Estate, given to the Town of New
Canaan in 1959. The buildings are complemented by an arboretum and
a variety of gardens including
the Sally Waters Herb Garden, Crider Memorial Bird and Butterfly
Garden, Swallen Wildflower Garden, and Susan B. Hanson Memorial
- In 1999-2000, the Nature Center completed a major facility upgrade involving
a 5,500 sq. ft. expansion of educational classroom space, a significant
renovation of animal care and greenhouse facilities, and the construction
of meeting, reception and exhibit space in the new 4,300 sq. ft.
- Among its assets, the Nature Center has sizable collections of
live mammals, reptiles, amphibians and Birds
of Prey. These animals, the trails, and arboretum, are used extensively in delivering
its environmental education programs.
For more information about giving opportunities, please email Laura Heckman or call (203) 966-9577 x19.