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Nature at the Heart of Community

January 7, 2016

Ed Gruenwald is passionate about his job. Watching the director of Hartman Reserve Nature Center talk with a group of kids about mussels and watching their eyes get big and their hands go up demonstrates why Hartman Reserve is an important part of the community.

"There's not just one inspiring moment. Every time I think, 'This is a great moment,' I come away from another program that was absolutely fantastic and the kids were coming up with great ideas and we're giving the takeaway messages," said Ed. "The kids look inspired. They're ready to go out and do something great. There's not just one inspiring moment for us, it's a series, it's the whole thing that's the inspiring part."

Each year, the Interpretive Center, which is considered the heart of Hartman, is used by over 10,000 people. Another 20,000 enjoy its trails in the surrounding 340 acres that anyone can access for free, seven days a week. Hartman Reserve gives people from the Cedar Valley and across northeast Iowa a place to be close to nature with an element of environmental education.

"We are providing the Cedar Valley with an outdoor ethic," said Ed. "It's not always obvious on a day-to-day basis, but I think it's in the background when people make those outdoor or environmental or recreational decisions, they are doing it with something they might have taken away from Hartman."

To keep up with demand and expand its educational impact, Hartman began a capital campaign for the remodeling of its Interpretive Center, built in the 1940s. CFNEIA made a $200,000 grant to help move them closer to their $2.2 million goal.

"To get that money early and to have that 'here you go' is very reassuring to us," said Ed. "It tells us the community values Hartman, we should keep doing this and we can afford to do it."

The new facility will provide more effective opportunities to engage the community and touch the lives of children and families, creating forever memories and nurturing a love of nature. At Hartman, it all comes back to connecting people to nature in a way that impacts their lives. A belief demonstrated in this quote from its founder, John C. Hartman."The closer our children are kept to nature, the better and happier men and women they will become."