Help wanted

For fun and education — volunteer trail guides for spring Audubon Community Nature Center tours

Photo submitted to Times Observer With the coming of spring, Audubon Community Nature Center will welcome as many as 4,500 students from schools in Chautauqua and Warren counties. The ACNC is looking for volunteer trail guides to lead these students through their tours.

The Audubon Community Nature Center is looking for volunteer trail guides.

No experience is necessary for the position, and training is provided. Guides will lead small groups of children on outdoor discovery walks.

Thousands of Pre-K through 4th grade students from throughout Chautauqua and Warren counties will visit Audubon Community Nature Center this spring to experience and learn about the outdoors. They will be led on Discovery Walks by people like trail guides.

While many local residents have had the rewarding experience of being a trail guide, Audubon needs more trail guides this spring.

Catherine Willard, an experienced Audubon trail guide, was inspired to volunteer by her own mother, “Grandmother Nature,” aka Norma Willard, who had 30 years of trail guiding.

“Many children don’t know an adult who likes to go outside. These kids learn about nature from television and know more about the Amazon rain forest than they do about the Chadakoin River,” Catherine said. “As a trail guide, you will have memorable encounters each week!”

Retired math professor Rick Rupprechts says that, as a volunteer trail guide, he likes to help the children learn to use all of their senses.

“Every walk is different,” he points out. “We look to spot as many different, interesting, and exciting things as we can. It is impossible to plan everything you will see, but wondering what we might see next is what makes it so exciting.”

Rupprecht adds that, “Sadly, some children have never experienced something like Audubon. As a walk leader, you play a major role in how the experience impacts them.”

If you would like to learn more about this opportunity, you are invited to participate in a New Trail Guide Orientation at the Nature Center on Wednesday, March 28, from 10-11:30 a.m.

Reservations for the free program are required by Monday, March 26, and can be made through the Programs page at

After this introduction, if it feels like a good fit, you can attend the four-day Trail Guide Training. These sessions on Wednesday mornings in April are required for both new and returning trail guide volunteers.

More information about the orientation and the training is on the Programs page at

Audubon Community Nature Center is located at 1600 Riverside Road, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown, N.Y., and Warren.. The three-story Nature Center building contains interactive displays, a collection of live animals, and the Blue Heron Gift Shop; building hours are Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and Sundays 1-4 p.m. The 600-acre wetland preserve with more than five miles of trails for hiking, snowshoeing and cross country skiing, and Liberty, the non-releasable Bald Eagle, can be visited from dawn until dusk daily.

To learn more about Audubon and its programs, call (716) 569-2345 during business hours.