Nature Center throws visitors into the wild

by Amy Devito

Courtesy of the Chula Vista Nature Center

San Diego cleverly stows several clandestine treasures that allow tourists and locals to take advantage of all the city has to offer. The Chula Vista Nature Center is a quintessential part of the city’s preserved natural environment and a valuable introduction to indigenous wildlife.

The Nature Center’s goal is to familiarize people with animals that are native to the area. It gives visitors an intimate encounter with the ecosystem that is so essential to continuing life here.

Adjacent to the bustling freeways lies a more tranquil and serene scene where several varieties of birds, fish and marine life find isolation from the chaotic, urban setting of San Diego. Acres of marshes and blooming greenery serve as a vivid, colorful backdrop encompassing the center. Admission for adults is $11, and with plenty of programs, activities and exhibits, the money is well worth it to spend a day meeting the natives. Animal interactions occur daily, including shark, eagle and stingray feedings. There are four new baby pacific sea turtles that are just a year old, and they too have feedings for guests to experience.

Some of the other programs include arts and crafts involving the animals, composting workshops, day camps, docent training, bird tours and overnight camping on site. Several walking trails give hikers a chance to experience the 2,100 different species of plants, and a unique viewing of the fauna as well.

“Our goal is to get people acquainted with the animals that inhabit our backyards, canyons and communities that are readily seen yet may not be noticed, and we want to inspire people to learn about all of them,” Director of Conservation and Communications Charles Gailband said. “People can get up close with the wildlife, really have a close interaction, which is important because conservation begins with familiarization.”

The bird exhibit includes some endangered species that were once prevalent in the local area. The center really focuses its attention on reaching out to people about the importance of preserving every species. The specialists there take in injured animals or those in danger, and through captive propagation, breed and release the offspring into the wild.

“Rather than going to SeaWorld where people have to deal with all of the crowds and a hefty price, the locals can experience our little ‘zoo unplugged,’ allowing patrons to get just as close to the wildlife but in a more low-key setting,” Gailband said.

The center is constantly thinking of new ways for people to interact with the environment through exciting special events. Art Aquatic is an innovative spectacle not seen in many places, with artwork taking new form underwater with the marine life. The tanks of the tropical fishes are adorned with resplendent glasswork, displaying an exquisite mosaic of wildlife.

On May 14, the center is hosting Where the Wild Things Are, an event featuring fine dining, world-class wines and live entertainment, all while sharing the experience with the animals.

The exhibits and events allow visitors to experience their environment in a new light, giving both people and nature the opportunity to bond.