For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum An educational wonder in your backyard



For those who visit the For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum, the journey to receiving an outdoor education is quite literally a walk in the park.

A visitor can take several paths while visiting the nature preserve, but one’s path to environmental enrichment truly begins on a gently winding lane flanked by lush, green landscape that leads to the main building on the For-Mar grounds. From there, stroll into the Visitor Center to observe some of the live animal exhibits or classes being offered, or venture out to the arboretum pond, the Observation Tower or the Foote Bird Museum.

Education is an important element of For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum, and is the very principle on which it was founded. Forbes and Martha Merkley were the benefactors; they donated a grand total of 383 acres to not only ensure environmental preservation and promote environmental education, but to provide a sanctuary for the wildlife native to Genesee County.

for-mar-2Many For-Mar events aim to educate those who attend. “Beekeeping, do-it-yourself and repurposing are just a few of the topics covered in the classes we provide here.” said Karen Palmer, Outreach Coordinator.

In addition to this handful of classes, For-Mar offers extension classes in nature and horticulture called For-Mar on The Road. The For-Mar staff travels to different parks throughout Genesee County to hold educational and engaging events. For-Mar on The Road takes place at locations such as Wolverine Campground, Davison Roadside Park, Flushing County Park, Linden County Park and Bluebell Beach. These classes help participants to explore and examine everything from bones to butterflies and everything in between. Participants are also urged to take a closer look at all the living things around them whether they are plants, insects or animals, and to engage in healthy outdoor activities, as well.

For-Mar really does have something for everyone! In a cooking class, attendees can learn the proper way to fillet a fish. Into fitness? You’ll find instruction in yoga, Bokwa and Zumba through For-Mar, as well. In case you were wondering, Bokwa is an energizing cardio workout during which participants draw letters and numbers with their feet. Other unique courses tie into cooking, chemistry and even knitting. For example, a hands-on course called “Chemistry is Cool” explores the chemical reactions found in daily life. “Finger Knitting” will be held at Davison Roadside Park and teach attendees how to transform old t-shirts into scarves, bracelets and tote bags.

Through For-Mar, people can even find opportunities to incorporate technology into their outdoor recreation. Ever heard of geocaching? Throughout the summer, the Auto City Cachers embark on a technology-infused “hide and seek” adventure that combines the use of global positioning systems (GPS) and social media to lead them to caches hidden in Genesee County parks. For those who enjoy spending time snapping pics of nature with their cell phones, For-Mar’s Citizen Scientist courses, known as the “Smartphone Naturalist,” introduces people to Project Noah through the use of their smartphones. Backed by National Geographic, Project Noah is the movement to document nature with smartphones to help scientists around the globe with their ongoing research of organisms. Helping to connect nature with art, writing and live theater, For-Mar offers “Nature Journaling” this month at Wolverine Campground, and theater enthusiasts can enjoy performances by the Kearsley Park Players, hosted at the preserve in June and July.

A popular program at For-Mar, the Community Garden allows people to grow annual crops on the grounds with help from Genesee County staff, who provides them with gardening necessities such as hoses and wheelbarrows. Participants are encouraged to bring their own gardening equipment, and it is also necessary that they employ organic gardening practices while maintaining their plot at For-Mar. That means a gardener is not allowed to use insecticides, herbicides or inorganic fertilizers to maintain their plots. Instead, natural practices and remedies can be used to maintain their garden, such as companion planting, using compost and natural pest repellants. Gardeners must also submit an application to For-Mar for consideration and must Jefdonate a certain percentage of their harvest to a local food bank. In addition, the Adopt-a-Garden program through For-Mar and Genesee County Parks teaches participants how to properly maintain their gardens and are expected to pay bi-weekly visits to their plots.

Want to volunteer at the preserve? Some of the volunteers’ duties include counting bluebirds at the park, removing invasive plants from the grounds or even becoming a greeter in the Visitor Center. Another way to get involved at For-Mar is to obtain an internship and while the position is unpaid, it’s a great way to get your foot in the door. Students are highly recommended to contact the Head Naturalist for more information about an internship position.

For-Mar Nature Preserve has a very wide-reaching and positive impact upon Genesee County. “The park gets about 20,000 visitors annually,” said Park Naturalist, Nicole Ferguson. “People come from far and near to experience what the 383-acre estate has to offer.”



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