Story last updated at 4:28 p.m. Thursday, June 20, 2002

Nature center offers trails and education
by Sean Pearson
Special to Homer News

photo: outdoors
  Photo by Sean Pearson, Homer News
A sign identifies the trail and points the way to the office at the Carl Wynn Nature Center.  
Atop a 1,000-foot winding climb, along a gravel road, and nestled in the bend one-and-a-half miles down East Skyline Drive is not generally a place many businesses or visitor attractions would consider prime location in Homer. However, the people at the Carl E. Wynn Nature Center think it's perfect.

"We really couldn't ask for a much better place for a nature center," said center director Jill Sill. "It's a great microcosm of the ecosystem in our area."

  Photo by Sean Pearson, Homer News
The Carl E. Wynn Nature Center offers outdoor opportunities and naturalist guides throughout the summer for people of all ages.  
The center hosted its season-opening potluck Saturday, allowing nature enthusiasts a chance to get together, see what changes the new season may have in store, and toss around a few ideas for the future.

"I think we had a pretty good turnout," Sill said of the 15-20 people gathered at the event. "We certainly couldn't have asked for any better weather for it."

The former homestead of Carl E. Wynn was donated to the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies in 1990. The center is one of several programs managed by Alaskan Coastal Studies, an environmental education organization in Homer. Established in 1981, the organization provides educational programs to many local students, as well as visitors every year. What began as a small group of individuals wanting to make the best of Homer's natural environment more accessible to everyone in the community has now grown to an organization with more than 300 members and 70 active volunteers.

  Photo by Sean Pearson, Homer News
The center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Labor Day weekend. Naturalist guides lead tours every two hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  
"The people who volunteer their time are the ones who make our program so successful," Sill said. "They spend time learning about all of the foliage and animal habitats up here so they can pass that information and knowledge on to others."

The Carl Wynn Nature Center is located along the bluffs overlooking Homer, and comprises 126 acres of spruce forest. The forest is sprinkled with an abundance of native plants and wildflowers, and visitors are often treated to sightings of moose, black bear, coyotes, snowshoe hares, spruce grouse, bald eagles and many other birds.

"We want to encourage people to experience every aspect of the center, while also developing a healthy respect for the many elements surrounding them," Sill said. "We offer many programs, each geared toward visitors' ages, levels of understanding and ability to access the trails."

Last summer, the center added a new parking lot, log cabin, several new trails, and 800 feet of handicap-access boardwalk to accommodate wheelchairs and other assisted-walking equipment.

  Photo by Sean Pearson, Homer News
Center director Jill Sill talks with a young visitor last week durng the center's opening.  
"The new boardwalk has been a great addition to the center," Sill said. "It really provides an incredible opportunity for those who may not otherwise be able to get out and experience the trails."

With the addition of the new trails, the center now offers six miles of maintained paths through the wild lands, and affords visitors numerous opportunities to view glaciers, mountains, Kachemak Bay, and Cook Inlet.

The center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Labor Day weekend. Naturalist guides lead tours every two hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and a pre-school story hour is offered every Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. The center also hosts an evening lecture series at 7 p.m. on Thursdays, and family programs every Saturday with activities for kids ages 6-12. For more information on any of the activities or programs at the Wynn Nature Center, contact the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies at 235-6667.