By Betsy Thorpe
“My favorite day is that one perfect day in March, when you know the next day, the park will look different. You can just feel the energy about to be released, tree buds are ready to open, the bluebirds are looking for nesting spots, the yellow daffodils are open, and the organic vegetable garden has been planted”.
Heather Gallagher, Environmental Education Specialist, Warner Parks Nature Center
The Warner Park Nature Center on Highway 100 is owned and operated by Nashville’s Metro Parks, and serves as the gateway to Warner Parks. The Nature Center was established in October 1973, and continues to lead public programs, field trips and other events designed to inform local residents about the rich natural history of the area. Hundreds of visitors arrive at the center each week to experience programs and lectures, or to get a trail map and learn about the plants and animals they might see while hiking on the park’s twelve miles of dirt trails. Families with strollers, joggers, and bikers enjoy the paved Old Roadway in Edwin Warner Park, which is closed to motorized vehicles.
The Warner Nature Center is open year round and the park’s wildlife announces the onset of each season. In winter, deer, bobcat, and other mammals leave tracks in the soft mud of the trails. In spring Carolina bluebells, endangered Nashville mustard, and Painted Trilliums welcome visitors to the park and migratory birds, such as the ruby-throated hummingbird, purple martin, and scarlet tanager, return, filling the park’s forests and fields with their songs and bright colors. With the summer heat, the wildlife of children and families arrive at the Nature Center. Children join naturalists on butterfly hikes, and enjoy night hikes when they explore the sky and watch for flying bats or owls. Families picnic at shelters nestled deep within the park. In Autumn the foliage is colorful and the park’s migratory visitors leave, as dried milkweed pods release their seeds in the fields, marking the end of the growing season.
Hummingbirds are a special attraction at the Nature Center and Hummingbird Day, celebrated in August is one of the center’s most popular program’s. Crafts, games, hikes, and lectures all highlight middle Tennessee’s smallest and favorite bird. Another popular event is Winter Bird Banding Day, on February 7, 2009 a record number of visitors arrived at the center to participate in the annual bird tracking program. Nature Play is the park’s newest attraction. Situated behind the Nature Center, this area provides a safe place for young children to play and explore the outdoors. April and October are the center’s busiest program months. More than twenty programs geared to help visitors become more familiar with the area’s natural environment are offered during each of those months.
The Warner Park Nature Center is especially popular with area Senior Citizens, many take advantage of the “Tours a la cart” program for park visitors who find walking trails difficult. The tours are offered on Friday and Saturday mornings April through October, providing an opportunity to observe the interior of Edwin Warner Park’s paved road system via a naturalist-led electric golf cart tour. Seniors also enjoy the organic gardening demonstrations and hummingbird lectures. Many of the Nature Center’s volunteers are local retirees who help out in the library, at the front desk, and with tree maintenance.
The Warner Park’s Nature Center is located at 7311 Highway 100 and is open Tuesday through Saturday,from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30p.m. For more information on Warner Park’s Nature Center call 352-6299.