A Sunny Saturday Event Shines Light on New Environmental Education Opportunities at Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge

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On a sunny Saturday afternoon, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Salem Audubon and Friends of the Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuges opened a new outdoor classroom for people of all abilities at Ankeny Hill Nature Center, part of the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge. Near Albany, Oregon, the new David B. Marshall Outdoor Classroom will serve as an environmental education space and is open to the public every day, from sunrise to sunset.

“We are grateful for our partners, neighbors and community for working with us to make the David B. Marshall Outdoor Classroom a reality,” said Hugh Morrison, regional director of the Service’s Pacific Region. “This is a continuation of the collaborative conservation work here in the Willamette Valley that protects native habitat and wildlife and has led to the recovery endangered species like the Oregon chub and Fender’s blue butterfly.”

The classroom is the newest environmental education opportunity at Ankeny Hill Nature Center, which offers everything from a nature explore area to accessible trails, interpretive programs, educations panels and picnic areas. Located on the edge of Peregrine Marsh, the nearly 1000-foot classroom can host up to 35 students and includes a porch that can be used by photographers and bird watchers as a bird blind. The center currently hosts two to three student groups a week at the Mark Ghelar Nature Hall, half a mile by accessible trail from the new classroom. 

"The unique partnership of local and federal organizations makes possible the Ankeny Hill Nature Center facilities,” said Mike Williams, Salem Audubon Society. “But it is the people of those organizations - their ideas, their knowledge, and their passion for sharing with others - that brings life to the place."

"The Friends are honored to be a partner in building this wonderful site. The weather was absolutely perfect, the chorus frogs were singing for us, and we had standing room only!," said Jill Scofield, Friends of the Willamette Valley National Wildlife Complex. "All in all, a wonderful day."

Many folks came together to celebrate the opening of the new classroom, including members of David B. Marshall’s family. A well-known Oregon conservationist, Marshall spent 30 years working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, helping to establish the Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuges and implement the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Gowing up in Oregon, he was inspired by Oregon’s wild places and wildlife. 

“I hope this outdoor classroom will instill in others the same passion that leads them to a lifetime of passion for conservation and inspire the next generation of conservation stewards – the next field biologist, friends group member, or neighbor that ensures our natural world continues to benefit generations to come,” said Morrison. 

The facilities are in the northeastern area of the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge at 130 Ankeny Hill Road SE. This is about 6 minutes west from the Ankeny Hill Road SE exit on I-5, or about one minute east of the intersection of Buena Vista Road and Ankeny Hill Road SE. 

The refuge is open everyday from dawn to dusk and is always free. The nature center is bordered by Ankeny Hill Road, Buena Vista Road, and Wintel Road to the north, west and south respectively, and visitors can access refuge trails and/or viewing areas from each. Observation blinds located on Rail Trail, Pintail and Egret Trails are a great way to get a closer view of the variety of waterfowl on the refuge. 

The Ankeny Hill Nature Center is the product of a unique partnership among area non-profit organizations and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Fundraising by the Salem Audubon Society and the Friends of the Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex complements support by the federal government to design, build and operate the center for the public.

To plan your visit to the refuge, please visit: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/ankeny

For more information, visit the Nature Center website: www.ankenyhillnaturecenter.org.

Story Tags

Education outreach
Environmental education
Urban refuge
Visitor services
Wildlife refuges