In 2005, the “Friends of Asbury Woods” organization, the predecessor to Asbury Woods Partnership, conducted a capital campaign to fund an expansion of the Nature Center at Asbury Woods that included a gift shop, three classrooms, restrooms, an amphitheater, and the Exhibit Hall. Since that time, tens of thousands of visitors have pressed their noses against the glass to look at our animals and walked across the bridge to see the fish and turtles. After 14 years, the exhibit hall was due for some repairs and upgrades to accommodate the increased number of live animal residents. Currently a box turtle, a salamander, and a baby garter snake reside in aquarium tanks inside the Animal Care Room and are not on exhibit to the public.
Thanks to grant funding from the Kenneth A. Scott Charitable Trust, the existing open air box turtle exhibit inhabited by Gertrude, the longest-living animal resident at the Nature Center, will be renovated to include an enclosure for Fridge, as our other box turtle is affectionately named due to his enclosure sitting on top of the refrigerator in the animal care room. Currently, some boundaries of the existing exhibit are enclosed with movable logs and rocks. While this is sufficient as a temporary structure, the renovation will include permanent dividers between the two enclosures and also a permanent divider separating the box turtle area from the indoor water turtle pond, ensuring that the box turtles cannot enter the pond, as they cannot swim well. Moving Fridge to the open air exhibit and creating safe, permanent barriers offers educational opportunities both with student groups and community members. When discussing habitats, the turtle enclosures can be used as visual and kinesthetic examples of the four basic needs for survival – food, water, shelter, and space. Students and visitors can also learn about the similarities and differences between water turtles and box turtles and why it is necessary to separate the two box turtles. Visitors of all ages will be able to watch both turtles and compare their habits and “personalities.” The renovated habitat will also be more appropriate in size for Fridge, helping to ensure continued good health and comfort as he grows.
In addition to the larger renovations of the exhibits, upgrades to exhibit lighting and the addition of a timed amphibian misting system will modernize animal care equipment, increase safety for staff, volunteers, and animals, and create opportunities for discussions of best practices in animal care with the public, students, and Animal Care volunteers.
The animals that call the Nature Center home have an important role in our mission to provide educational and environmental programming to all members of our community. The instant connection that children and adults create with the animals opens the door to meaningful learning experiences about habitats, lifecycles, ecosystems, and environmental sustainability.
Second Nature Fabricators, Ltd., the original creators of the animal exhibits, will be completing the renovations and updates to the exhibit hall over the coming weeks and months. Photos and updates will be announced once the renovations have been made.
Special thanks to the Kenneth A. Scott Charitable Trust, a KeyBank Trust for helping us to enhance this important tool in the delivery of our mission.