Hidden Oaks was the Fairfax County Park Authority's first nature center. It turned 50 in October.
Below are stories and events connected to the anniversary celebration on October 19, 2019.
Chain saw artist Andrew Mallon created an art sculpture from the stump of a tulip poplar that was struck by lightning. He also carved seats and a bench out of portions of the tree's trunk. The area will be used for interpretative nature programs. The sculpture can be seen from both inside and outside the nature center. Its formal unveiling took place during the center's 50th anniversary celebration.
Two electric bolts during a storm turned a 100-foot tulip poplar just outside the picture window at Hidden Oaks Nature center into an imminent danger to the building. The tree had been the focal point of the woodland view from the center. It was a feeding station for flying squirrels and many species of birds. Its loss was keenly felt by staff, park visitors and the nature center’s wildlife neighbors.
But the lightning assault did not damage the tree’s base. That was the knock of opportunity. Staff arranged for a ten-foot stump to remain for chainsaw artist Andrew Mallon, who created a sculpture of critters that enjoyed the tree’s gifts over its 128-year life. The urban art will be the centerpiece of a learning station on natural woodland shelters, and the carving means the tree can be enjoyed for the next 20 years. Because it is near the nature center, the artwork is easily accessible for all visitors.
Information about a fundraising campaign for scholarship programs for Title I students to learn about animal habitats is at www.fohonc.com, the website of The Friends of Hidden Oaks Nature Center.
Caroline Seitz is the founder and owner of Kids Nature Shows LLC and Reptiles Alive LLC. She has been a part of Hidden Oaks Nature Center since she was quite young. She has told us she will be forever grateful to Hidden Oaks Nature Center, especially to naturalist Nancy Cooley and the other staff who encouraged and supported her passion for wildlife, especially reptiles. She made her very first public live animal show at age 8 or 9 at an evening family program at Hidden Oaks and stayed on as a volunteer naturalist for many years. Through her volunteer experience she was able to build her dream career as a naturalist and wildlife educator. She will host a presentation about reptiles during the Hidden Oaks anniversary celebration.
The photos are Caroline through the years at Hidden Oaks, starting with one of her first shows at age 8 or 9. The second is from the 1980s. In the third, she is treating the display copperhead at Hidden Oaks while serving as a wildlife rehabber.