Wearing a glittering pair of green fairy wings, Jill Dreves , the founder of Nederland’s Wild Bear Nature Center, conspired with many creatures of the land to excite youth about the magic of the natural landscape during the 19th annual Enchanted Forest.
Wild Bear’s event this year was particularly special because it was the first Enchanted Forest to take place on a newly acquired 5-acre plot that will soon be home to the nonprofit’s new nature center, slated for completion in the summer of 2022.
“The goal is to get people out here to just fall in love with nature and the magic of nature,” Dreves said. “The site is a place to engage with the community and we are planning a nature center right now to be built.”
Hundreds of families visited the property, located at the gateway of Mud Lake on Indian Peaks Drive. In addition to opportunities for taking in the fall colors, there were crafts, the chance to play on a nature-scape and live music performances.
A newly constructed half-mile trail also invited people to take in the fall leaves and learn about native species. Five volunteers dressed as woodland creatures and popped up along the hiking tour to share facts about animals.
Mary Loehr, who dressed as a wolf spider, was among them. When she appeared between the trees, a group of children on the tour shrieked with delight.
Loehr shared with children that mama wolf spiders can carry 100 baby spiders on their backs.
“That’s why I have all these legs to help me out,” Loehr said.
She warned the children to not “squash” a wolf spider if they happen to see one because they are harmless and play an important role in the ecosystem.
Not far down the trail, was a friendly mountain lion, played by Julian Cassano , who shared with those on the tour that the native cats can jump up to 23 feet. Other friendly creatures also emerged from the trees, including a raccoon, moose and great horned owl.
The trail ended at the Mud Lake bus, a rusted out decades-old relic, bedecked with graffiti, that was relocated to that spot in July.
When asked what he like best about the Enchanted Forest, 4-year-old Oliver Null was matter of fact.
“Everything,” Oliver said.
Oliver, whose face was painted like a cougar, hopped from tree stump to tree stump near his mother Brooke Null , of Louisville. Null said this was their first visit to the Enchanted Forest, though they have visited the nature center many times. Null said her son loves learning about nature, which encouraged them to attend the event.
“We just really love the nature center, so we knew that this event would be ideal (to) spend some time in the fall foliage,” Null said.
Dreves founded Wild Bear Nature Center nearly 25 years ago. It is currently housed out of an office building on Lakeside Drive in downtown Nederland. Initially, its new nature center was slated for a 5-acre plot on the northeast side of Mud Lake, but a 30-foot sink hole dashed any dreams of bringing it to fruition. In April, Wild Bear completed a land swap with Boulder County and now has its plans back on track with a more viable 5 acres. Donors are being sought to contribute to funding for the nature center. Saturday’s event helped to raise money for the nature center’s operations only.
Saturday’s Enchanted Forest seemed to encompass what the Wild Bear Nature Center hopes to convey to the world.
“There’s a lot of mystery and magic in the natural world and it’s about sparking that magical love of nature,” Dreves said. “The more we take care of nature and want to preserve nature and probably the more we are grounded individually.”