More than a nature center. More than a land conservancy.
All conservation organizations share the same basic mission. The mission of these organizations all lie somewhere on a continuum between preparing the next generation to inherit the Earth and leaving a healthy planet for them to inherit. The Wilderness Center (TWC) is a cutting edge regional conservation/education organization that has planted itself firmly in the middle of the continuum.
More than fifty years ago, children encountered nature on walks to school and while playing in local forests and fields. By the mid 60’s however, visionaries in our community recognized that these precious encounters with nature were gradually disappearing from our everyday lives. We could no longer depend upon chance to provide personal encounters with the natural world. Intentional action was required to ensure a human connection to nature. These visionaries acted. They founded TWC to ensure these precious encounters with nature would remain a part of our lives – our legacy.
The Wilderness Center was incorporated on June 16, 1964. Over the subsequent years the property and facilities have changed and grown. Support from individuals, corporations, and foundations, has allowed our programming and land conservation to expand.
Today, this headquarters tract has grown to approximately 650 acres of forest, meadow, wetland, and prairie. From the creation of the Wilderness Lake in 1967, the most beloved natural feature on our grounds, to the dedication of our Arnold W. Fritz Solar Array in 2012, TWC continues to innovate and grow to provide diverse opportunities to enrich our community.
Educational programs have grown over our 50-year history. But equally important, the programs have evolved over time to adapt to changing community needs and refinements in educational theory. Family programs have grown in recognition that classroom type programming is not the best way for young people to find a passion for nature. Opportunities for continuing education and social interaction for adults are available through various programs and our 13 different special interest clubs who meet regularly in the Hart Interpretive Building.
Education is only part of the story. Creative land conservation efforts are key to TWC’s mission. Through fee ownership and conservation easements, TWC is protecting nearly 3,000 acres of land in the region it serves. In 2002, TWC established a revolving land fund to assist other organizations and agencies in obtaining critical parcels of land. In this way, TWC has become an important partner for many different organizations and agencies.
Social entrepreneurship is the cutting edge of the nonprofit world. It’s called “ecopreneurialsim” at TWC. It is a key factor in the organization’s vision for the future. Ecopreneurialism takes many forms at TWC.
Through Ecotourism, TWC offers trips to distant locations. Travelers enjoy both “eye candy” and “brain candy.” The trips geneerate income and inspire travelers to support TWC.
In 2006 TWC truly moved beyond the realm of traditional nonprofit operations when it began TWC Consulting Forestry and created the wetland mitigation bank in our community. Brewster Wetland earned over $1.1 million while preserving 100 acres of forested and emergent wetland. Earnings from Brewster Wetland enabled TWC to acquire its second banking site, Falcon Flats, which is in progress.
In 2008 TWC moved even farther beyond the traditional when it opened Foxfield Preserve, the first nature preserve cemetery in the state and the first in the country operated by a conservation organization.
In 2013, the next big venture for TWC was launched by a land donation. TWC will begin acquiring land for operating sustainable forests to be operated on a nonprofit paradigm. Anticipated land bequests make the long-term future of sustainable forestry promising.
As we celebrate 50 years and chart a course for TWC’s future, it is clear that TWC must remain an innovative, adaptable nonprofit institution. We will need to engage our constituents in a digital world while creating encounters with the natural world. In short, prepare the next generation to inherit the earth while leaving them something worthwhile to inherit.