Founded in 1972 by former Ridgefield First Selectman J. Mortimer Woodcock, Woodcock Nature Center is beloved by both Ridgefield and Wilton for its nearly 150-acre preserve, educational programming, unforgettable events, and outreach into the community through deep connections to nature. Over the last 50 years, Woodcock has evolved but never wavered in its mission to creatively connect the community with nature and to one another.
Since 1972 Woodcock has grown to provide educational programming for over 4,000 learners of all ages each year including school field trips, our popular summer camp and enrichment programs, which support our educational efforts by immersing the community in direct experiences with nature. Woodcock partners with local organizations to present lectures, workshops, and films, and our guided hikes, child and caregiver classes and on-site animal encounters provide a means for the public to engage with and learn from our natural world.
Woodcock’s nearly150 acres of preserve, originally inhabited by the Siwanog tribe and today owned by the state of Connecticut straddles both Wilton and Ridgefield. The preserve includes historic stone walls and stands of old maple, beech, oak and hickory trees, a pond, wetlands, vernal pools and nearly four miles of hiking trails, which remain a resource for thousands of hikers, birders and outdoor enthusiasts. Woodcock’s trails, natural playground, nature center, and outdoor aviaries (where we care for ambassador animals including two non-releasable birds of prey and nearly 20 reptiles and amphibians) are publicly accessible year-round with no admission fee.
In celebration of its numerous achievements, Woodcock will host a series of exciting events throughout 2022 which will provide opportunities for the community to celebrate together as well as help build for the future. Woodcock leadership has also begun work to revitalize the center’s long-term strategy and visual identity through strategic re-envisioning of its identity, website, on-site signage and more, which will be unveiled throughout the year and is aimed at matching the center’s current vitality with its goals for the future.
“Taking a deep look back on 50 years of outdoor education, we are reminded of the many people who have contributed to our organization’s incredible success. The current board, staff and I are humbled to be among this group of dedicated individuals. I am especially privileged to shepherd Woodcock Nature Center during this milestone year and to be guiding our strategy for the future,” said Woodcock’s Executive Director Lenore Herbst.
“I know our community will continue to embrace our programs and events, especially during this landmark year. And I am especially looking forward to sharing the evolution of our strategic goals and brand identity throughout the year, as well celebrating Woodcock’s ongoing success with everyone at our many special events,” Herbst added.
The board of directors of Woodcock Nature Center is spearheading a campaign to collect historical information about the nature center. From past board members and executive directors to education staff and key volunteers, the board of directors is assembling a historical timeline of notable events with plans to honor individuals who have made substantial impacts to the organization’s half-century of success.
“It is truly incredible to see how former Ridgefield First Selectman J. Mortimer Woodcock’s simple vision to get kids outside has grown into the organization we have today,” noted Board President Jana Hogan. “We are excited to learn more about those who helped to shape Woodcock Nature Center, to honor their contributions, and to discover ways in which we can continue to nurture this wonderful community treasure.”
Golden Special Events
As Woodcock kicks off its 50th year, the community is invited to celebrate together at several exciting upcoming fundraising events:
- Celebrations kick off Saturday, April 30 with Woodcock’s annual Frothy Forage, a one-of-a-kind hiking and tasting experience for the whole family. Along the trails, guests enjoy tastings of craft brews from Nod Hill Brewery plus new partner Owl’s Brew Boozy Tea as well as soda tastings with Izze Sparkling Soda and Hosmer Mountain Soda. Also included are animal encounters, live music, and food. Tickets are on sale now and are expected to sell quickly.
- A 50th Birthday Bash on Saturday, July 9 will welcome all ages to learn about Woodcock’s history, meet the animals, enjoy the playground, and set out on a scavenger hunt, plus enjoy music, food and of course … a birthday treat.
- Beer lovers will delight in the launch of a new brew at Ridgefield’s Nod Hill Brewery in honor of Woodcock’s 50th. The First Pour Kick-Off Party on Sunday, August 7 includes first sips of the new brew, a Nod Hill meadow tour and reserved seating at the brewery’s new Biergarten.
- The year would not be complete without Woodcock’s annual Under the Harvest Moon on Friday, September 16. Details for the picturesque evening under the candlelit pavilion are forthcoming but will include food, wine, beer, music and a live and silent auction.
- Where the Wild Things Run 5K & Kids Fun Run on Sunday, October 16 honors the Woodcock preserve with runners and walkers of all ages participating in this trail race and celebration, which is nearly as old as Woodcock itself.
Woodcock welcomes new event sponsors in honor of its 50th anniversary. For more information, email Executive Director Lenore Herbst.
More ways to get involved
Woodcock leadership is looking for stories to document and share about how Woodcock is shaping the community. Anyone with fond memories at Woodcock Nature Center from when they were young; who attended Woodcock programs or worked as a camp counselor; who was inspired to pursue a career in the environmental sector; who considers themself a “Woodcock Kid” can get in touch by completing Woodcock’s online form.
Organizers are also encouraging anyone with additional photos and stories about the early years of Woodcock’s history to share them by emailing Woodock’s board.
Woodcock Nature Center receives no government funding and relies on generous donations as well as program and event income for its continued success. Donations in honor of Woodcock’s 50th anniversary are welcome and can be made online.
About Woodcock Nature Center
Woodcock Nature Center does not receive any funds from local towns or the state of Connecticut and fundraises privately for every dollar necessary to sustain its programs and facilities. In fact, 50% of the center’s revenues are from these donations along with special events income. Woodcock depends on the generosity of private foundations, corporations and individuals to remain a resource to the community.