Harris Nature Center Builds River Overlook

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By Florian Cherdron
Meridian Times staff writer

OKEMOS — Harris Nature Center is building a river overlook deck behind its main building that will grant a panoramic view of the Red Cedar River.

The purpose of the overlook is to create a place where the river and its ecosystem can be viewed by visitors to the nature center, according to park naturalist Kit Rich. The deck will also serve as an outdoor classroom to schools that wish to visit the center.

Barb Kissling, president of the Harris Nature Center Foundation and former sixth grade teacher at Kinawa middle school in Okemos, said the overlook deck will serve as an outdoor classroom to students of all ages and give visitors a great view of the habitat and wildlife surrounding the Red Cedar River.

Kissling said she likes that the overlook will create a place to gather an entire class in an outdoor environment.

“When I was a teacher, I was very much hands-on,” said Kissling. “I loved taking kids to the nature center because it always got them excited to be able to see what they’re learning.”

The cost of the overlook was projected to be $26,000. Thanks to discounts and donations by various people involved in the project, the actual cost is $18,000-$20,000, according to Rich.

Kissling said that the cost was reduced by the generosity of the people and organizations involved. Home depot gave a discounted price on the wood and volunteers helped with construction. The contractor for the project, Kevin Palmiter, also gave a discount because he lives in the community.

The project is being paid for by the Harris Nature Center Foundation..

“We raise money so that Harris Nature Center can go above and beyond the funds they get from the park millage,” said Kissling.

The foundation raises money through silent auctions, fundraisers at Noodles & Co. restaurant, private donors and other methods, according to Kissling.

When the overlook is built, the foundation will offer bus scholarships of $100 to encourage teachers to bring their class to the nature center.

Two interpretive exhibits will be displayed on the overlook to enhance the experience, according Rich.

“The building is not always open, so the interpretive signs can be useful to explain to visitors about the river and its inhabitants,” said Rich.

The project is estimated to be completed in mid-April, with the exception of the two interpretive signs.

A dedication ceremony for the overlook will be held Saturday, June 9, at 3 p.m. The ceremony will have a ribbon-cutting and will honor donors.

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