Armand Bayou preserve reconnects people to nature
Fall is a fabulous time to get out and get back to nature, and there's no better place to turn than Armand Bayou Nature Center, a 2,500-acre preserve at 8500 Bay Area Blvd. in Pasadena, said Tom Kartrude.
"The concept of a refuge for the human spirit is important," said Kartrude, the center's executive director. "In just a short trip from home, people can get out into an urban wilderness. That's our goal, to connect people with nature."
The preserve, which was established as a nonprofit entity in 1974, functions as a partnership between Harris County, which owns the land, and Armand Bayou Nature Center, which uses its donations and provides volunteers to manage it.
"Armand Bayou Nature Center is probably the best example of what Harris County looked like before development," stewardship coordinator Mark Kramer said.
The center offers activities through the year and is especially busy during the cooler months of autumn.
New this year is the scarecrow festival, an annual event that invites individuals and community groups to submit scarecrow creations for prizes.
Contestants were asked to use recycled materials to create scarecrows that reflect their organization or interests.
The viewing public will select the best entries, and the winners will be announced at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 14, during the Martyn Farm Harvest Celebration.
"We're trying to reach out to our immediate neighbors," said Heather Millar, the center's director of education. "We're right here, and we're inexpensive to go to."
Scheduled for 6-9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, will be Creepy Crawlers, a family oriented Halloween alternative. Guests can meet live bats, spiders and turtles, learn about animal rehabilitation and experience hayrides, guided night hikes, face painting and crafts with recycled materials.
"What we do is try to include the family in an educational program, but we also do some things just for fun," Millar said.
Reservations are required. Admission is $8 for members, $10 for others and free for children under age 2. Guests are welcome to wear non-scary costumes.
Martyn Farm Harvest
A well-established tradition at the center is the annual Martyn Farm Harvest Celebration, a commemoration of the area's history, which is set for Saturday, Nov. 13, and Sunday, Nov. 14. The Martyns, a family from Scotland, purchased an 83-acre tract on what is now part of the nature center in 1879. The family remained until the 1960s. The celebration also incorporates the 1895 Hanson House, which originally was built on Galveston Bay.
This year's event will include demonstrations of quilting, spinning, weaving, basket making, woodcarving, blacksmithing and food preparation. In the 1895 farmhouse, volunteers will be making biscuits in the wood-burning stove and churning butter to go with them. Children can join crafts and games and meet goats, chicks and ducks. The festival also will feature a general store where visitors can purchase homemade jams, pickles and fudge along with homegrown vegetables, herbs, fruit, wooden toys, baskets and goat's milk soap.
Available year-round at the center are 1 ½-hour pontoon boat rides, which are available by reservation twice a day on Saturdays. Guests can check out the center wildlife and see the center from a different viewpoint. Reservations are required. Guests also have the option of 1 ½-hour guided canoe paddles on weekends and guided nature walks.
Increasing numbers of parents are discovering the center's Mommy and Me classes for preschoolers age 24 months to 4 years.
Classes are offered 9:30-11 a.m. on Fridays, September through June. The cost is $6 for members and $8 for others, and reservations are required.
Educational programs are available for older children.
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