Celebrate with MDC the Burr Oak Woods Nature Center 40th anniversary Oct. 1 at Blue Springs

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Kansas City
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Kansas City, Mo. – Forty years ago, the Burr Oak Woods Nature Center opened in the Kansas City suburb of Blue Springs, the first nature center provided in the state by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). Now, MDC invites the generations of people who have enjoyed Burr Oak Woods to celebrate with a free Conservation Carnival at the nature center from 2 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1.

Visitors will find special conservation exhibits, nature crafts and games, food trucks, and children’s activities. They will see special exhibits of equipment used by MDC staff to manage the natural habitats that support native plants, fish, forests, and wildlife. Visitors can talk with staff about conservation practices on public and private lands. They can also try their hand at outdoor skills such as archery or throwing the atlatl with coaching from MDC staff and volunteers. One of MDC’s new K9 agents will also be on hand.

The activities will celebrate nature and the thousands of people who have enjoyed seeing live snakes and turtles, or learned how to fish, or spotted wild turkeys while hiking on the trails. People who came to the nature center as children with family or in a school group are now bringing their children and grandchildren to Burr Oak Woods. School teachers who came as youths are now bringing their students.

“That is something we hear at Burr Oak Woods all the time,” said Phil Brinkley, an MDC regional resource planner who previously was the nature center’s assistant manager. “People who came in as kids are now bringing their kids. It’s a great place to spend time outdoors and get a glimpse of the wildlife that lives there.”

Burr Oak Woods was built after voters approved the conservation sales tax in 1977, a promise kept to voters that MDC would provide educational nature centers. Surrounding the nature center building is a 1,071-acre conservation area with trails through forest, open woodland, restored native grassland, limestone outcroppings, and flowing creeks. The staff holds classes on fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and aquatic life at an education pond. The ribbon-cutting photos from 1982 show a new building in a rather barren setting. Four decades later, the nature center building is surrounded by tall oaks and wildflower gardens _ all close to home for Kansas City area residents.

“The staff provides a wide breadth of programs explaining about things you can do outdoors from gardening with wildflowers to kayaking, hunting, or fishing,” Brinkley said.

Nature is always changing and so are programming and exhibits at Burr Oak Woods. For example, a new Nature Rx series takes people outdoors to find nature connections in ways that promote health and wellness.

“We’ll offer you a hike and a hammock,” said Sam McCloskey, Burr Oak Woods manager. “We’re going to listen to nature sounds, relax, and enjoy being out in the environment.”

The nature center’s staff will continue to offer programs for all ages and abilities. Staff will conduct nature outreach programs for underserved communities. Importantly, all Burr Oak Woods programs are free, and so is visitor use of hiking trails or exploring natural areas.

“We are going to engage and re-engage with people to connect them with nature and conservation,” McCloskey said.

Burr Oak Woods is about a mile north of Interstate 70 off Missouri 7, at 1401 N.W. Park Road in Blue Springs. COVID-19 safety precautions are observed at the nature center. For information, call 816-228-3766, or visit https://mdc.mo.gov/burroakwoods.