The Nature Center at Butler Corner north of Dolores is constructing a visitors center and is planning a grand opening for this spring.
The $75,000 center will feature classroom space as well as equipment, including binoculars, plant and animal guides and other literature, microscopes, magnifying glasses and snowshoes to help teachers engage their students in outdoor learning.
Retired Dolores librarian and educator Kathie Butler started the nature center in 2016 on her family ranch, and it is gaining steam.
“The new visitor center will be really nice,” she said. “There’s a half-circle outdoor patio where the students gather upon arrival. Inside is a large meeting room with Aspen Wallwood paneling and a small kitchenette. The most exciting part for me is the library.”
The 263-acre nature center off County Road 31 borders San Juan National Forest land. It has a network of trails that are already being used as an outdoor classroom for teaching youths and adults about ecosystems and land stewardship.
“At this time, we have more than 6 miles of trails with 98 bluebird houses. We are hoping to add birdhouses for different species as well as plant bird-friendly shrubs. We hope to add butterfly plants as well,” Butler said. Along the trails, there are several benches and picnic tables in the park for visitors to enjoy.
Plans are to open a modest old-fashioned schoolhouse, an observatory and a “story trail” intended to bring picture books alive for children as they explore nature.
“We are planning a memorial next to the visitor’s center with flags honoring my dad and his four brothers who all served in World War II,” she said.
A devoted writer of children’s books, Butler will also lead writing and literature programs for children and adults. Already she has hosted educational programs and tours for students from Dolores, Cortez, the Children’s Kiva, 4-H club, home-school kids and Battle Rock school. Every Thursday at 10:30 a.m. she hosts a free story time session for kids.
The Nature Center has launched a corporate sponsorship campaign asking local businesses to support the center and help fund the new visitor center.
The center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit under the umbrella of the San Juan Resource Conservation and Development Council, and is funded by donations, grants and loans.
“The nature center fits perfectly with our mission of conservation and economic development,” said Pam Dollar, manager for San Juan Resource and Development. “Kathie brings people into the area, and teaches the community about the values of the outdoors.”
The Nature Center at Butler Corner, north of Dolores, will be preserved thanks to a recently completed conservation easement with the Montezuma Land Conservancy with support from Great Outdoors Colorado.
For information on the nature center and on how to donate, call 970-882-4593 or go to the center’s website at www.thenaturecenteratbutlercorner.org