Nature Education

Augusta, ME 04330
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History of the Augusta Nature Education Center
By Thomas Rumph (1982) -
Condensed by Ann Thomas (2012)

In 1919, Gertrude Grover, a resident of Hallowell, formed what in 1928 would become the Augusta Nature Club. It started out as the Ball Bird Conservation Club, named for Rev. Dwight Ball, a superintendent of Universalist churches in Maine and a founder of the club.

Though it was originally initiated to encourage bird watching and appreciation, the club began to encourage local teachers to interest children in nature study. For many years, club members went into the classrooms to give talks on natural history subjects. As early as 1932, the club was exploring the possibility of purchasing an area for a bird and nature sanctuary, and there potential sites were located. There was no record of any purchase of land at that time.

In 1933, Mr W. H. Bruce passed away, leaving a twelve acre parcel on Whitney Brook and the Cony Street Extension to the city. This lot was later referred to as Bruce’s woods. In the 1940’s, the city of Augusta considered the need for green space close to town but this would not become a reality until sometime later and not by the efforts of Augusta.

The city of Augusta acquired two more parcels of land in 1957, totaling 13+ acres of Malta Hill in the vicinity of the existing city-owned parcels. Here Hodgkins School was built, a fact which later proved an additional incentive for the creation of a nature education center in the area.

In the early 1960’s, the Augusta Rotary Club was searching for civic projects which might improve the community. Dr. Francis O’Conner, the chairman of its Community Service Committee, applied energy and determination which would eventually bring together the city, the Nature Club, and the Rotary Club to create the Augusta Nature Education Center. While he attended the National Audubon Society nature study camp at Hog Island near Medomak, ME, he envisioned a future nature center closer to Augusta. Under his enthusiastic leadership, the Rotary Club raised funds and purchased an additional eleven acres of land adjacent to the city’s Quarry Lot and Hodgkins School properties. This land was turned over to the city for a nature center.

In October 1961, Dr. O’Connor urged the Nature Club to incorporate so the Rotary Club might deed more property for the nature center to the club to ensure its protection from development. In March of 1963, the Nature Club became the Augusta Nature Club Inc. and in March 1966, the Rotary Club purchased an additional 33 acres for the center along Whitney Brook and deeded it to the Nature Club, making the total area for nature study some 75 acres.

One year later, Dorothea Marston added an additional 17 acres which was part of the old Bartlett property and by 1971, four more parcels had been added to raise the total up over 100 acres. Dr. O’Connor had long since become a member of the Nature Club and, working with other members, trails were blazed, signs posted, and a summer program of nature education was initiated. Through the efforts of several dedicated people, the Augusta Nature Education Center was finally brought into reality.

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