Southeast Kansas Nature Center Changes Management

The Kansas mussels exhibit is one of the exhibits in the SE Kansas Nature Center in Galena.

Unique outdoor education facility to be operated by state agency

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) will operate the Southeast Kansas Nature Center (SEKNC), Galena, under a lease agreement with the city of Galena. The center sits on a hilltop in picturesqueSchermerhorn Park, overlooking Shoal Creek south of the city.

The lease, finalized earlier this month, allows KDWPT to lease the center and 10.1 acres of Schermerhorn Parkfor $1.00 annually for a term of two years, with an option to renew for two additional years. KDWPT will manage the center, care for the exhibits, maintain the nature trails currently on the property and provide education programming. The city of Galena will continue to own and manage the park (including Schermerhorn Cave and the park area along Shoal Creek) and maintain the center. KDWPT already owns property on both sides of Shoal Creek south and east of the park.        

Several exhibits and some equipment at the SEKNC are on loan from other sources. Those items, including a working bee hive and a large insect collection, are excluded from the lease and will remain under private ownership.

“We are excited to take over the operation of the center so we can expand our educational presence to southeast Kansas,” said Ross Robins, KDWPT Education Section Chief. “It is a valuable addition to our portfolio of education centers at Junction CityGreat BendWichita, Pratt and Olathe. We’re looking forward to fostering our partnerships with Pittsburg StateGalena schools and local organizations and to offering great outdoor education experiences for visitors and communities in the area.”

Jennifer Rader has been hired as center director. “I am thrilled to be a part of this new phase in the center’s life,” she said. “Schermerhorn Park has an incredible diversity of wildlife and habitat perfect for outdoor education.Galena residents are highly supportive of the nature center and what former director Linda Phipps has done for environmental education. I plan to build on her legacy and provide more center-based and outreach programs for area schools, organizations and the public. We also want to explore internship and volunteer opportunities for local colleges, service projects for interested groups and partnerships with other environmental education programs.”

Schermerhorn Park is ideally situated in the 55-square mile Ozark Plateau geologic region in far southeastKansas. The region features the oldest surface rocks in the state, and many of the hillsides are covered with hardwood forest dominated by oaks and hickories. Galena is an anchor point for the Kansas Historic Route 66 Byway, which stretches between Galena and Baxter Springs.

The Southeast Kansas Nature Center is located at 

3511 South Main Street

 (K-26), Galena. Phone 620-783-5207. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 4 pm.