fall leaf project. Or until the annual Bucket Brigade commences, a program about water and its role in the environment and importance to people. "Wear comfortable clothes," reads the flyer announcing the event. "And be prepared to get wet!"
"It can be pretty wild sometimes, but we have a wonderful, core group of people who keep this place organized," says Libby Sanders, acting executive director and vice president of the board of trustees. "Volunteers, the Board, teachers, craftspeople, students ... all kinds of people get involved and keep this place growing."
Bird-watching, photography, traditional crafts and wild flower identification are just a few of the classes and workshops offered at the center and devised by a volunteer teaching staff.
Volunteers also dream up and implement projects to enhance the area's natural beauty. In the last four years, more than 600 trees, such as pine, redbud, dogwood, oak and maple, have been strategically planted. Prairie and marsh habitats add to the diversity of landscape. Engineering students from the University of Missouri-Rolla have designed and constructed a bridge, boardwalk, outdoor amphitheater and an observation boardwalk over the pond.
"Sometimes people just drop by and take care of the day-to-day things without ever being asked. Just this morning, a plumber came by to check out something in the basement," explains Sanders. Volunteers, she says, help do everything from mow the grass to write the newsletter.
Bonebrake's success also is due to the leadership of a unified Board of Directors, of which Sanders and seven other people are members. They give their time, professional expertise such as legal, architectural, or construction knowledge, and provide financial support and work together to secure it from outside sources. The Center has been awarded a Neighborhood Assistance Program grant, which allows businesses and individuals to make donations to the Center in exchange for certain tax credits.
"I think it's a benefit to Salem, partly because we have a place for people here to be proud of, to love," says Sanders. "Everyone can find something here: something rewarding by volunteering, or by attending one of our programs. Sometimes it's been a struggle, but a lot of people care about seeing the Center grow."
Bethel's Investment in Nature
About 250 miles to the north, there is another outdoor educational facility filling a small but vital niche in a community. It lies between North Shelby High School and the town of Bethel and, from the road, looks like a