Winter is a slow time for most nature centers. But Chrissy Elmblad, development associate for the New Canaan Nature Center, hasn't been hibernating. Even as large piles of snow covered the grounds, she was busy planning for a late-February membership drive.
"We're kind of unique among area centers in that we're admission free," says Elmblad. "So we depend heavily on membership to offset that." One of her first goals since taking the job three years ago was to revamp the membership program. "People didn't feel like there was much benefit to being a member, so we started a whole slew of free activities for them." The biannual solstice celebrations are among the more popular events. "The summer celebration is a big picnic, but the winter one is well attended even in the cold and snow," she says.
During Elmblad's tenure the center has also performed a major reconstruction of the trail system that traverses its grounds. "We've widened them and produced a guide book with corresponding field markers so people can get around more easily," she says. It's also created "adventure packs" that can be carried on hikes for kids to perform educational nature activities.
Maintaining the flow of donations has been challenging during the past few years of economic downturn, Elmblad says. "I think during tough times donors tend to focus on organizations that provide essential services to people," she says.
Still, Elmblad couldn't be happier in the job she found after working in the public relations field. "My dad was a fishery biologist in Colorado, so I guess it's in my genes," she says. "It couldn't be a better fit."