Elevations Foundation grantee profile: Wild Bear Nature Center

“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.”
~ Henry David Thoreau

Jill Dreves grew up in the mountains of Colorado. As a child, she attended a tiny, nature-immersed public school of just 32 children in grades K-8. During those formative years, a deep connection with Mother Earth was forged, and a seed was planted.

“After teaching public school for nine years, in 1995 I went back to my roots of connecting children (and now community) to their backyard nature and took $500 out of my savings account to start Wild Bear Nature Center,” Dreves, the Executive Director of the organization, said.

Wild Bear Nature Center in Boulder County is an all-ages nature center open to the public 360-days a year and a 2022 Elevations Foundation grantee.

Sharing the joys of nature

The nonprofit nature center in downtown Nederland is open 360 days a year and free to the public. Wild Bear provides year-round learning experiences for children during their days off from school including weekends, summer break and over the winter holidays.

In addition, you’ll find all-ages activities and nature workshops geared toward adults, families and school groups on the calendar of events including guided snowshoe and summer hikes, nature classes such as snow science, water studies, herbalism, birds and mushrooms, nature art classes and more.

“The mountain ecosystems are the most incredible teachers to connect all ages to learning about water, geology, plants and animals,” Dreves added. “During the summer, children travel from Boulder to Wild Bear in Nederland on the RTD bus with our staff. Wild Bear also enjoys visitors and participants from all over the world.”

Time for more growth

Wild Bear is currently working on building a new 8,500-square-foot nature center (rendering shown above) at the gateway to 3,000 acres along the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway with 16 miles of nature trails in western Boulder County.

Inside, visitors will enjoy classrooms, nature exhibits, a wildlife observation window and community program space. Head outside to a nature playscape, an amphitheater, ADA-accessible trails and more.

“Since its founding, Wild Bear has become a strong and growing organization, providing thousands of people with opportunities to find joy in nature, to unplug and feel the healing power of the universe,” Dreves said.

Getting outside to breathe fresh air, listen to the birds and touch the Earth can also make us more mindful of the need to be environmentally aware and take steps to protect our planet.

Connecting with our community

Recently, Wild Bear was awarded a grant from the Elevations Foundation.

“I was really excited when I got the news and couldn’t wait to share with the whole team!” Development Director Kat Barr said. “I ran down the hall to tell my coworkers right away. Elevations Foundation supports so many amazing community organizations, and we couldn’t be prouder to be one of them.”

Barr and Dreves said the funds will help them continue to provide free and nominal-fee opportunities to the nature center’s visitors and move forward on a new facility.

“We have a lot going on and the general operating support provided by Elevations Foundation is critical to our success as a growing organization,” Barr added.

If you’d like to learn more about Wild Bear Nature Center, become a volunteer or donate to their efforts, click here.

For more information on Elevations Foundation and the work it’s doing in our community, to learn more about its grant program or to help support one of the Elevations Foundation’s causes, click here.

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