615 South Wintergarden Road
(This is not a mailing address)
419-353-0301- Naturalist’s Office
- Rental Information
- Park Brochure & Map
- Picture Gallery
- Volunteer Information
The Rotary Nature Center and the window on wildlife are often open for drop in visitors Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Occasionally, the center is open on weekends when staff is on site.
Bowling Green was once part of the Great Black Swamp that covered most of Northwestern Ohio. The area was teeming with wildlife and had huge forests with stands of Oak, Maple, Ash, and Hickory trees. Intermingled with the forests were prairies and savannas where grasses and flowering plants covered forest floors and opened into sunlit areas hundreds of acres in size. The deforestation and drainage in the area provided excellent farmland for the early settlers and it continues to provide for farmers today.
When the City of Bowling Green acquired Wintergarden Woods just after the Second World War, it provided a space for residents to engage in passive recreational opportunities. Wintergarden Woods was just the beginning. Over the years a lodge was built through community support. Originally designed to cater to overnight groups and youth hostellers, the lodge is now the Rotary Nature Center which serves to educate residents on all facets of natural resources within our community. Additional properties were purchased, including St. John’s Woods, Bordner Meadow, Twyman Woods, and most recently, 19.7 acres that were formerly owned by the Sader family (now called Tucker Woods).
Today, Wintergarden/St. John’s Nature Preserve provides miles of hiking/walking trails with many loop options that meander through acres and acres of forests and prairie meadows. Full time naturalists on staff host a variety of programs year round. These programs are designed to educate the public about the plants and animals that live in our area. Cultural and historical programs are also offered to help visitors understand the human impact on our resources while often encouraging a hands-on approach to learning. The staff Naturalists also act as restoration managers on the site by eliminating non-native plants and encouraging the growth of plant species that were historically part of our local ecosystem.
Inside the Rotary Nature Center, a “window on wildlife” looks out at wildlife feeding stations and a flowing stream that attract birds, squirrels, and the occasional deer. From couches inside, visitors can relax and observe the native wildlife in a comfortable setting. The natural resources staff is housed at the Nature Center and they are available to answer questions. An extensive natural resources library is also available and contains books for children along with many of the most up to date field guides on the market.
The Natural Resources staff provides special request programs for groups such as scouts, service clubs, special interest groups, schools, and agencies throughout Bowling Green. Groups are encouraged to meet our naturalists at the preserve, but are always willing to come to the group’s site if a visit is not feasible. Topics range from plant and animal identification, preserve updates, primitive skills, local and cultural history, and general nature hikes that are designed to include several of the topics just mentioned. The natural resources staff will work with the group’s schedule to find an available date and time to serve your group. For information, please contact the Natural Resources staff at 419-353-0301.