Senior Director of Community Programs, Chattahoochee Nature Center, Atlanta
Alicia Evans has been with the Chattahoochee Nature Center (CNC) in the metro Atlanta area since 2007. She grew up in Atlanta and has always loved nature and the outdoors, but it wasn’t until she learned that “environmental education” was something she could study in college that she realized she could turn it into a career.
Evans, senior director of community programs at CNC, is passionate about sharing nature with children – to show them the possibilities the outdoors holds for them, as both a wonderful place to pass the time and as a potential career. We asked her about CNC’s work with the Thrive Outside program and why it’s vital to understand and meet basic safety needs for families as they’re introduced to the outdoors.
Tell us a little bit about what the Nature Center is doing as part of the Thrive Outside program.
Atlanta is such a diverse community, so depending on where you go, access to and awareness of the outdoors and environment aren’t equal. Grants like this allow us to start with awareness and to help children learn that it’s fun to be outside and there are so many things to explore. It’s a great, healthy way to stay active and show them the outdoor opportunities Atlanta has to offer. Our center is right on the Chattahoochee River, which is the major waterway for the city. So in our programming—we host programs on-site and deliver outreach programming to meet them where they are, at youth centers and organizations like the Boys and Girls Club and YMCA – we teach kids how it’s all connected – about the watershed, and its effects all of us and even how we can impact the water we drink at home. We help them understand that they have an opportunity to make a positive impact on the environment as a whole, from the water quality to the birds they hear to the plants they see. The funding from Thrive Outside has really helped us reach these communities, be able to take down barriers in them that exist for access and to bring the outdoors to them.
What drives your passion for this work?
When I graduated from the Warnell School of Forestry at the University of Georgia, I thought that I was going to do research as a traveling wildlife biologist. But I realized that I love my home, Atlanta. I came to CNC as a camp counselor initially, taking eighth and ninth graders out on trips, and then I started as a naturalist, teaching environmental education programs.
What’s fun about teaching people about nature is watching them have that “aha moment” we all love to talk about as environmental educators – the moment where it clicks, when you realize you may have discovered that you want to learn more about the outdoors, about nature. My aha moment was when I was a child, and my grandmother taught me what a chickadee was when we were looking at birds out the kitchen window. My aha about teaching others about nature was when I guided canoe trips in the Boundary Waters with Girl Scouts, gaining a deep appreciation of nature and wanting to share that with people. I understood why we should care about nature, I understood that everything is intertwined and I wanted to challenge myself to translate that message to others.
How have you seen the outdoors impact kids you’ve worked with?
In 2008, I had an opportunity to be a canoe guide on Paddle Georgia, a 100-plus-mile canoeing trip with the Georgia River Network. The Nature Center was tapped to guide a group of underserved students, and it was so hard but so rewarding. Some of the kids didn’t know how to swim – most had never been in a canoe. We worked with them over the week to build their personal strength, teamwork and self-confidence to be comfortable outdoors, skillfully paddle their own canoe and be proud of their accomplishments — all while being able to show them beautiful places across the state. Seeing time with nature change these kids – to give them confidence and an appreciation for the natural world – it’s powerful. It makes me emotional to think about it. It’s why I returned to lead this trip for these kids each year for 10 summers.
It’s fun to see the kids transform from feeling like “I’m not getting in a river” and maybe feeling a little anxious to feeling comfortable being outside, having fun and being so proud they beg to have their picture taken when they’re the one paddling the canoe. It’s amazing – almost a metamorphosis. It speaks to the value of nature and the success of programs like this. When you take away the electronics and all the other distractions and allow a child to focus on themselves and help them grow as a person, I think that’s a real “aha moment,” and it’s where my passion for this type of work comes from.
What are your hopes for what will come out of the Thrive Outside program?
The Thrive Outside program is a three-year program. Having one-time outdoor experiences is important, but this structure allows us to interact with children more deeply, on multiple occasions and to be a part of their growth over time. We allow them to become more comfortable in an outdoor setting, with snakes and bugs, or even hiking on a trail or paddling a canoe. I think it really helps broaden their perspectives and show them that everything has a purpose and that nature can be fun! Every leaf on the ground is important, and if you turn over a rock, you learn that that’s something’s habitat. We want to help them gain a sense of place and to start them on a journey that begins with an awareness of nature and sends them toward being a steward of the earth.
Reaching the kids is super valuable, but we also need to approach this journey from a family level. Often, adults need engagement with and introductions to the outdoors, too, in order to keep that thread alive. I would hope that this program enables the children to encourage their families to join them on the journey and that we can reach adults and help them foster an interest in the outdoors for themselves and their families.
What’s your dream for future generations of children?
My hope, first and foremost, is that there are more opportunities for green space in urban environments and that we prioritize that need for the people who live there. An organization like ours might be in a position to inspire someone to recognize that there’s nature everywhere and then go out and create green space for those in their community. Whether it’s a small plot or a big meadow, it doesn’t matter. We’re noticing it now with the pandemic—people are staying home, and all of a sudden, they’re like, “Oh my goodness. The air is clear, and there are birds singing. Where did all this nature come from?” I’m hopeful that this brings a reminder to everyone that you can’t escape nature; in fact, you need it. And you need to take care of it so that it takes care of you.
We also need to make sure that the outdoors feels safe for everyone. I remember when I was teaching outreach programming in an underserved area in Atlanta where community access and awareness of outdoor recreation are limited. We were at the Outdoor Activity Center in West Atlanta, about to head into the forest on a hike, and there was a child who — you could just tell by looking at him — was nervous. I asked him if he was excited to go hiking, and, I’ll never forget this. He said, “Miss Alicia, I just don’t want to go in there. That’s where the bad people are.” It was a different kind of “aha moment,” one where I realized the privilege I have that allows me to think of going hiking and get excited about it, rather than fear for my general safety. I think about that experience a lot. I regularly remind myself that being outdoors and what it means for me may not mean the same to others. When I am taking others outdoors, there may be fears—both spoken and unspoken—context and previous experiences unknown to me. You’re never going to reach somebody with your message unless their basic needs—safety, food, etc. — are cared for.
Event redirection from Israel to Roswell fostered multi-generational ceremony
Elle Kaufmann and family were headed for the Haas Promenade, the Tayelet, in Jerusalem for a July 20 bat mitzvah ceremony and festivities. As COVID evolved in May, the family decided to redirect and execute the event at the lush Roswell Chattahoochee Nature Center. A sentimental addition to the event was Elle’s maternal grandmother Annetta Kornblum sharing the b’not mitzvah ceremony.
Elle, a seventh grader at The Lovett School, observed, “In a way I was disappointed because the thought of being in Israel was very ancestral and spiritual. As long as I was surrounded by Bubbe and my family, I was happy.” Kornblum added, “Growing up in Dayton [Ohio] in an Orthodox setting, girls were not encouraged to have a bat mitzvah. When Elle exclaimed, ‘You have to do this with me,’ I was thrilled.”
Kornblum was familiar with prayers and services but had never read Torah. They both studied with tutor Linda Weinroth to perfect their parts. Elle did two segments and Kornblum did one in parsha D’varim.
On Monday, July 20, a small group of immediate family, uncles and aunts, Craig and Sheri Kornblum and Josh and Tara Kornblum joined Elle’s parents Paige and Rocky Kaufmann, and brother Aidan, at the Chattahoochee Nature Center. Great Aunt and Uncle Rachel and Jack Rosenberg were special guests. Kornblum recalled, “In the original plan in Israel, family was coming from New Jersey, California and Florida, which obviously was not happening.” Others were invited to Zoom.
“By renting the CNC pavilion, we were secure in unpredictable weather, and every family member had a part.” Elle noted, “It was certainly hot and humid there, but we had sunny skies and beautiful scenery. I was a little nervous, but everything flowed.”
Kornblum’s speech was sentimental. She said Elle is her youngest grandchild to have a bar or bat mitzvah. “Where has the time gone? I am blessed to be in this beautiful setting wrapped in Zayde’s tallis, which he wore so proudly.”
Mom Paige focused on Elle’s resilience and role as a trailblazer – a female wrestler and fishing enthusiast. “I cried when I learned we were having a girl, and we named you Ahava, which means love. … All of you here today have contributed in various ways and stepped up when we had to completely switch gears. This was not something we could have done ourselves and we are truly grateful for every detail. Dealing with one Bat Mitzvah girl is enough, let alone two!”
Paige praised her mom for her role as an educator, world traveler and community volunteer, in addition to being a devoted ‘Bubbe-dutied chauffeur.’”
Star Elle spoke about Moses’ instructions to the people as a reminder of the advice she gets from her parents daily. Detailing her community service project, donations to the Atlanta Humane Society, she recalled that her mom always adopted the most pitiful creatures into their home.
Elle also described her relationship with her older brother, Aidan. A rising Lovett 10th grader, he celebrated his bar mitzvah on Masada two years ago. “Thank you for always standing up for me and allowing me to sleep in your room when I found a bug in mine.”
Lastly she acknowledged the best friendship shared with Bubbe, “And please don’t cry as I know you must be doing now.”
Rabbi Brian Glusman explained to the AJT, “We just completed Bamidbar, the book of the wilderness. In the concluding portions, Moses records each of the 42 places where the Hebrews camped on the way from slavery to the Promised Land.
“Our rabbis ask, ‘Why is it necessary for the Torah to list all the encampments throughout the wilderness?’ The stops serve as a reminder that life is not about the destination, but the journey. We are taught to appreciate the beauty and the treasures accumulated along the way.
“While this was not the original destination for Elle and her Bubbe’s b’not mitzvah, this day was an important stop on their journey. They will always remember it and appreciate the love and support that made it all possible.”
To set the scene:
Elle wore a Ted Baker layered white-on-white short-sleeved dress with navy Converse high tops. Bubbe wore a navy outfit with a periwinkle bottom. Zest Atlanta Catering laid out a luscious traditional “Jewish brunch” of bagels, tuna, fruit and French toast casserole. The cake by Cakeology had cheerful Mazel Tov icing.
Event planning: Bluming Creativity
Photos: Laura Tarquino of Vosamo Photography
Décor: Let’s Celebrate
Bar: Complete Beverage
August 15, 2020, 1:25 pm- Saporta Report
By David Pendered, Publisher
The new Hike for Health Challenge, with its $250 incentive from REI, is the latest example of the growing synergy among the leaders of 10 parks and greenspaces in metro Atlanta.
The challenge provides a structure intended to encourage folks to visit 10 participating parks during the next 10 months, and walk each of the parks’ trails. After their hike, walkers are encouraged to post their thoughts about their experiences along the trail in each park and use #HikesForHealthREI in their social media postings.
REI’s $250 gift card incentive is accepting registrations through Aug. 31, according to REI’s entry form. No purchase is necessary, nor is an actual hiking trip.
The idea of creating a program to encourage folks to explore parks beyond those in their own neighborhoods grew out of the ongoing, two-year conversation among the leadership of local parks and greenspaces, according to Melody Harclerode, executive director of Atlanta’s Blue Heron Nature Preserve. She has led Blue Heron since March, after leading the Sandy Springs Conservancy through a growth period.
“We’ve been meeting since August 2018, and in April asked ourselves what we could do to benefit in our region with an incentive that could really serve the public in a meaningful, exciting way,” Harclerode said Saturday.
At the time, the isolation brought on by COVID-19 was just beginning to be recognized as a threat to physical and emotional well-being. The benefits of outdoor exercise have only increased as the pandemic has lingered and its symptoms persist among a clinical group described in a recent report as long haulers.
This report, released July 25 by the Indiana University School of Medicine, found that COVID-19 symptoms go beyond respiratory and circulatory problems, topped by fatigue and body aches:
- “While the impact of COVID-19 on the lungs and vascular system have received some media and medical attention, the results of this survey suggest that brain, whole body, eye, and skin symptoms are also frequent-occurring health problems for people recovering from COVID-19….
- “A reported 26.5% of symptoms experienced by Long Haulers are described as painful by the group members.”
The findings seem to underscore the importance of exercise in maintaining physical and emotional health. That’s where the idea for the trail walk fits in, Harclerode said.
“This is an important time for people to strengthen their body, mind and spirit during a challenging time in our region,” Harclerode said. “We’re reading about people gaining weight, facing the stresses of job losses, with relationships both personally and professionally. To connect with nature is a proven therapy. Hike for Health is a wonderful incentive to do that.”
The organizations sponsoring the Hike for Health Challenge include:
Blue Heron Nature Preserve; Chastain Park Conservancy; Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy; Chattahoochee Nature Center; Dunwoody Nature Center; Friends of Lost Corner; Livable Buckhead; Parks Cobb County; Peachtree Creek Greenway; and Sandy Springs Conservancy.
Another benefit of the challenges is that the trails are located in the region and don’t require a trip to a distant destination to take in the benefits of the outdoors.
“Hike for Health is an opportunity to explore and raise your awareness of some of the most beautiful assets in our metropolitan region,” Harclerode said. “You learn about our communities, about history, and about the land.”
Ten organizations have joined forces with national recreation retailer REI for the Hikes for Health Challenge encouraging the public to hike, walk, or jog 10 trails in 10 greenspaces over the next 10 months.
Organizations participating in the challenge include Blue Heron Nature Preserve, Chastain Park Conservancy, Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy, Chattahoochee Nature Center, Dunwoody Nature Center, Friends of Lost Corner, Livable Buckhead, Parks Cobb County, Peachtree Creek Greenway, and Sandy Springs Conservancy.
Now more than ever, these allied organizations see their beloved trails as part of a prescription for better physical and mental health and a stronger life. Hiking outdoors has been proven in studies to promote heart health, weight reduction, and cholesterol control for adults. Physical activity in nature boosts muscular and brain development, creativity, and mental well-being in children.
Participants are encouraged to use #HikesForHealthREI in social media postings after walking, jogging, or hiking a trail from each greenspace organization. Register for the Hikes for Health Challenge in August to qualify for a $250 REI gift card using the link featured in social media postings for participating organizations and in REI newsletters.
The campaign culminates with the selection of a grand prize winner in spring 2021 with a $250 REI gift card plus prizes from the greenspace organizations. For more details and registration, go to websites for participating organizations and hikesforhealthchallenge.splashthat.com.
hike, walk or jog on 10 trails in their 10 greenspaces over the next 10 months
August 7, 2020 – Marietta Daily Journal, Neighbor Newspaper
By Everett Catts, @NeighborEverett
Ten metro Atlanta organizations are partnering with recreation retailer REI for a social media campaign encouraging residents to hike, walk or jog on 10 trails in their 10 greenspaces over the next 10 months.
The Hikes for Health Challenge, which is kicking off in August (National Wellness Month), runs through May.
The participating organizations, which are in Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties, are: the Blue Heron Nature Preserve, the Chastain Park Conservancy, the Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy, the Chattahoochee Nature Center, the Dunwoody Nature Center, the Friends of Lost Corner, Livable Buckhead, Parks Cobb County, the Peachtree Creek Greenway and the Sandy Springs Conservancy. Each nonprofit has helped improve its community’s qualify of life through the development of trails, parks and greenspaces.
The challenge comes at a time when individuals are at home more than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, these organizations see their trails as part of a prescription for better physical and mental health and a stronger life.
According to a news release, hiking outdoors has been proven in studies to promote heart health, weight reduction and cholesterol control for adults. Physical activity in nature boosts muscular and brain development, creativity and mental well-being in children.
Participants must register for the challenge by Aug. 31 to qualify for the grand prize of a $250 REI gift card and items from the greenspace organizations. Once registered, they are encouraged to use #HikesForHealthREI in social media postings after walking, jogging or hiking on a trail from each greenspace organization.
In the spring the grand prize winner will be chosen and announced.
For more information or to register, visit hikesforhealthchallenge.splashthat.com, one of the organizations’ websites or use the link featured in social media postings for participating organizations and in REI newsletters.
Q: Since schools closed early due to COVID-19, my kids have learned to enjoy the outdoors and are enthralled with butterflies. Can you give me a quick rundown of the butterfly event that the Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell is hosting?
A: The “Butterfly Encounter” held by the nature center is this summer’s exhibit and will run through Aug. 2.
The butterfly encounter is held outdoors in a mesh-covered dome structure. Landscaped by nectar and foliage-type plants, at any given time there are hundreds of butterflies fluttering around, feeding on nectar or resting inside.
“It provides an opportunity to personally engage with a really unique part of nature,” Visitor Experience Manager Jana Pearce said.
“Butterflies are very charismatic. I don’t know if it’s the color or the way they move, but people just really connect with them on a deep level,” she added.
Greeted by a butterfly encounter attendant, guests will be given a little bit of butterfly school, provided with some basic guidelines for the visit and help get your nectar stick set up.
The exhibit is self-paced and guests are free to explore as they wish. Changing from week to week there are eight to 12 different species.
“We have really little kids and really tall adults. Your physical perspective of where your eye level hits can totally change your perspective within the encounter,” Pearce said.
“It’s nice to see families leave excited about the time they had and with smiles on their faces,” she said. “My personal gratefulness is that it’s nice to see something positive happening here.”
A small native plant sale is located outside of the tent for those wishing to plant a butterfly garden at home.
The nature center is included in general admission, and the exhibit is open rain or shine. The butterfly encounter is free to CNC members. All tickets must be purchased in advance.
For more information, visit www.chattnaturecenter.org.
Address: Chattahoochee Nature Center, 9135 Willeo Road, Roswell, 30075
Explore nature through trails, animals, gardens and butterflies at this local wooded escape
Jul 16, 2020 – Macaroni Kid Alpharetta-Roswell-Milton
By Karen Cohen, Publisher
The Chattahoochee Nature Center (CNC) in Roswell is an outdoor nature oasis. We recently went to the CNC and explored the 127-acres of woods, wetlands and river habitat. We packed a picnic, water, sunscreen and bug spray and experienced the serenity of nature.
Open until August 2nd is the popular Butterfly Encounter. This unique experience is included in your price of admission. We were able to interact with hundreds of beautiful butterflies inside the canopy. We were given two nectar sticks to share with the native butterflies. The kids loved seeing the butterflies land on their nectar sticks and even on their heads and hands. The boys enjoyed searching out specific butterflies they wanted to feed nectar, such as the monarch. We were also able to take many photos with the butterflies!
To help manage crowd flow and social distancing, we were given a specific time to visit the Butterfly Encounter and did not encounter any issues. For more information regarding the Butterfly Encounter, click HERE.
The Chattahoochee Nature Center rehabilitates animals and has resident animals onsite for guest viewing. We saw a bald eagle, beaver, owl, and hawk while walking through the CNC Wildlife Walk paved trail. The outdoor animal exhibits includes informative signage with interesting facts about each animal.
There are six family-friendly hikes at the Chattahoochee Nature Center. Along the hikes, you can enjoy the natural beauty of wildlife, a river, a pond and gardens. Our kids enjoyed a walk that landed us on a dock by a pond full of turtles and fish. They spent a lot of time looking at the turtles and wishing they could catch and take one home!
Click HERE for more information on the CNC hiking trails.
There are some extra activities at the Chattahoochee Nature Center you can experience for an additional cost. This includes zip lining and canoe trips. Advanced ticket purchase and registration is required, so please plan accordingly:
Zip Line: Zip line through the Chattahoochee Nature Center trees and 500 feet across Beaver Pond. There are two different courses that also include obstacle challenges for adventure seeks. For more information, click HERE. To read more about our experience zip lining with Screaming Eagle Aerial Adventures at Chattahoochee Nature Center, click HERE.
Canoe: Enjoy a peaceful canoe ride along the Chattahoochee River! There are options for family canoe trips, date night canoe trips, private canoe trips and weekend guided trips. For more information, click HERE.
CNC Members: Free
General admission: $10 Adults | $7 Seniors (Ages 65+) and Students (Ages 13 -18) | $6 Children (Ages 3 -12) | Children 2 and under are free
In order for guests to maintain social distancing, the Chattahoochee Nature Center is limiting its visitor capacity. You must purchase and reserve your tickets in advance. Walk-ups will not be accepted. Click HERE to learn more on CNC’s new registration process.
During our visit, all the staff we encountered were wearing masks and there was always plenty of space to maintain social distancing guidelines. The indoor exhibits inside the Discovery Center are closed at this time for health precautions.
9135 WILLEO RD ROSWELL, GA 30075
We did receive complimentary tickets in exchange for this review, however it did not influence my opinion.
Roswell's Chattahoochee Nature Center has plenty for you to see right now
ROSWELL, Ga. – Reservations are required and masks are abundant, but aside from the obvious changes due to the coronavirus pandemic, staffers at the Chattahoochee Nature Center say their popular Butterfly Encounter will provide the same magical experience for visitors this year.
This year’s Butterfly Encounter opened last month will will continue daily through August 2nd, welcoming visitors into a butterfly-filled tent and allowing them to see the delicate winged creatures closer than ever before. If you’ve seen the Butterfly Encounter on Good Day Atlanta in the past, you know it results in some amazing pictures and videos — especially as the sun heats up the tent and wakes the flying insects. And this year, there will even be more space inside the enclosure — the Chattahoochee Nature Center is requiring visitors to buy tickets in advance and for a specific date and time, so that capacity inside the encounter will be reduced.
Meanwhile, throughout the Chattahoochee Nature Center, staffers say they’ve put separate entrances and exits in place, in order to reduce cross-traffic and to help visitors maintain social distance. Visitors should also know that all transactions will be credit card only — no cash accepted.
Hours for this year’s Butterfly Encounter are 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays and Noon to 4:30 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is included with General Admission, which costs $10 for adults, $7 for those 65 and older and students, and $6 for children ages three to 12. To buy tickets and make a reservation, click here.
Of course, after many years of enjoying the Butterfly Encounter, we wanted to spend a morning there again and get the information on this year’s changes. Click the video player in this article to check it out.
Families can still flutter among the butterflies
July 2, 2020 – North Fulton Neighbor, Marietta Daily Journal
By ELIZABETH NOURYEH, @NouryehNeighbor
Families can still flutter among the butterflies at the Chattahoochee Nature Center this summer.
The Butterfly Encounter is one of the most popular summer events at the Chattahoochee Nature Center. Guests can get up close with hundreds of native butterflies in an enclosure full of vibrant nectar plants and watch these colorful creatures dance from flower to flower. Guests are also able to feed the butterflies with a nectar stick.
To ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for visitors, CNC is drastically reducing the capacity of the outdoor Butterfly Encounter tent to ensure space for social distancing. Center-wide policies and procedures have been implemented to off the best experience possible. Tickets must be purchased in advance and guests must reserve a time slot to visit the nature center. Walk ups are not allowed at this time and cash will not be accepted.
A new wildlife habitat has been created around the outside of the Butterfly Encounter and expanding to permanent plantings inside the encounter. The wildlife habitat will provide shelter and food throughout the year to birds, insects and small mammals.
Butterfly Encounter attendants will be on hand to help guests learn all about these pollinators, and host and nectar plants will be available for sale daily so visitors can start their own pollinator garden.
The Butterfly Encounter is open daily until Aug. 2 and is included with General Admission and free to CNC Members. Visitors must purchase admission tickets in advance, which includes a date and time to visit the center. Members will also be required to make a reservation for their visit. The date and time on your admission ticket will double as your designated time to visit the encounter.
The exhibit is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.