Bluff Lake Nature Center

Wildlife Refuge - Outdoor Classroom

aka BLNC   |   Denver, CO   |  http://www.blufflake.org/

Mission

Bluff Lake Nature Center educates individuals to be educated, resilient, and curious; conserves a natural area in the city; furthers equity to outdoor access; and nurtures the health and well-being of communities and ecosystems.

Ruling year info

1995

Principal Officer

Ms. Rachel Hutchens

Main address

4760 Oakland St. Suite 200

Denver, CO 80239 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

84-1305302

NTEE code info

Education N.E.C. (B99)

Wildlife Sanctuary/Refuge (D34)

Natural Resource Conservation and Protection (C30)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Blog

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

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Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Environmental Education

The Bluff Lake site was set aside for restoration and management as a wildlife refuge after Stapleton International Airport closed in 1995. The path toward restoration has been successful and management continues to be a big job. Our Site Manager and an active group of volunteers work, year round, to eradicate noxious plants and plant native cottonwoods, willows, wet land shrubs, and prairie grasses. These native plants will thrive and serve as food/shelter for the many species of wildlife that live at or visit the site.

Our other focus is on community education. The first goal is to provide science education programs to elementary schools in the area, focusing on low-income schools from the closest urban school districts - Denver, Aurora, and Adams County public schools. Our elementary science program teaches children both in the classroom and at the site, and helps them to establish a hands-on connection with nature as an enhancement to classroom learning. Our program is based on state standards, and helps teachers meet their learning goals for students.

Additionally, BLNC's education program reaches the community in broader ways. We host ten summer Fireside Chats, which focus on a variety of wildlife and conservation topics. And we run a ten week long summer day camp which reach an audience of children in a deeper level.

In 2020, Bluff Lake saw a 46.7% increase in daily visitors. This really tells the story of how Bluff Lake’s location in the midst of urban development, surrounded by neighborhoods, was an essential refuge for the community. The education team developed distance learning options for schools and families including daily nature activities posted on our social media, virtual field trips, and additional onsite grab and go materials. We also were able to adapt our summer camp to the situation and successfully hosted over 350 campers this summer, providing them with much needed socialization and time outside.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
Families

Downloadable resources are available for free from the BLNC website, including Common Animal Signs & Species, Bluff Lake Quest Map 2.0, Nature Sensory Scavenger Hunt (ECE +), Self Guided Tour, and "I Spy…" for Spiders, Animal Signs, Summer Insects, Summer Birds, Animal Homes, Spring Flora, and Spring Birds.

Population(s) Served
Families
Parents
Caregivers
Adults

Children get a much needed break after school out in the natural world! They learn and play as they explore the diverse habitats of Bluff Lake. Each session will be custom built for the children in attendance, making sure to cover topics they are most interested in such as animal tracking, shelter building, and more. Complete fun activities and crafts, learn from environmental experts, and expand your exploration skills!

The After School Program is FREE for students who attend Title I schools.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
Children and youth
Low-income people

Birding experts lead free walks around Bluff Lake. These Bird Walks take place year-round on the first Saturday of each month from 8 a.m. to 10 am. Bluff Lake loans binoculars to use during the walk for those who don't have a pair.

Population(s) Served

These FREE drop-in style programs are held each Saturday, with free give-aways, scavenger hunts, field equipment rentals, games, and activities for both kids and adults. Later end-time, fire pit, and s’mores are available on select weeks (weather dependent).

Population(s) Served
Age groups
Parents
Age groups
Parents

Our weekly outdoor nature camps offer a unique opportunity for kids and teens! We have something for everyone, with Weekly Camp Themes for ages 5-6 or ages 7-12, and a Junior Counselor Program for ages 13-17. All camps run for one week each from 9am-3pm Monday to Friday. These camps are for every kid or teen with some energy to play, grow, and build a strong future for themselves and the planet!

We inspire our campers to better understand and appreciate the outdoors through a blend of weekly environmental topics, nature exploration, animal encounters, hands-on lessons, games, crafts, and free creek play. Small group sizes organized by age and parent preferences give every camper the opportunity to be curious, active, and appreciated! Parents will also get to share in the experience by receiving camp photos and activity summaries from the counselors at the end of each week.

Extended pre-camp care (7:30-9am) and post-camp care (3-5pm) are also available through the first week of August. Half-days (9am-12pm) are available for Ages 5-6 only. See Hours & Location for full info.

Scholarship applications are available for families who cannot pay camp fees.

Population(s) Served
Families
Families
Families
Preteens
Children
Adolescents

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of students educated through field trips

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Children

Related Program

Environmental Education

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Hours of volunteer service

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Input - describing resources we use

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of participants engaged in programs

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Field trips, summer camps, family programs, family events, adult programs, etc.

Number of visitors to the site

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of free participants on field trips

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Children

Related Program

Environmental Education

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Goal: Continue supporting our mission through experiential environmental learning, working to update current programming, add more diverse offerings, and work with community partners to strengthen and broaden our reach.

Goal: Manage and protect BLNC and its diverse native habitats, improve facilities for BLNC programs by completing current capital projects, and ensure future landscape values of the lake through resolution of water issues.

Goal: Increase community awareness and engagement with Bluff Lake for new and returning visitors and volunteers.

• Update NETs worksheets to better align with our education goals of having students spending more time engaging with the site and less time filling out a piece of paper.
• Purchase new supplies (nets, thermometers, water monitoring, etc.) and emphasize use of these tools as a skill in all field trips, summer camps, and programming.
• Translate all written documents into Spanish.
• Grow volunteer program so that we can have smaller group sizes during programming.
• Create a calendar that has dates and themes for all programs, to better show the community what we are doing. This can be used for funding purposes and for promotional purposes. This will include ongoing programs like Family Nature Adventure Days, Fireside Chats, Bird Walks, and special events like Bird Day on the Bluff, Summer Solstice, Wine and Cheese, and Boo on the Bluff.
• Add new program options like Girl Scout programming, Bird Day on the Bluff, bringing back Fireside Chats, etc.
• Continue to leverage and grow community partnerships to help us better meet our mission and extend our reach. Partnerships include Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Denver School of Science and Technology, GoWild Americorps Coalition, The Urban Farm, Sandcreek Regional Greenway Partnership, Bird Conservancy, Metro Denver Nature Alliance.
• Continue to identify the features of the Bluff Lake property that are distinctive and valuable and take actions that protect, sustain and improve those features.
• Continue planning and development for structures and features, such as the Welcome Center, Nature Playground, HDR Wetland Ecology Station, and the Riparian Garden.
• Improve language and signage onsite and online to better communicate our vision, mission, and beliefs.
• Engage community members to act as advocates on BLNC’s behalf.

Bluff Lake Nature Center has a strong education and site management teams, led by Education Manager Heidi Pfeiffer and Land Manager Erickson Smith.

Heidi Pfeiffer first joined the Bluff Lake team as a summer camp counselor, then took over as Education Manager in December of 2018. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a Ph.D. in experimental psychology focused on education and health psychology. The beauty of Colorado’s natural spaces drew her to relocate from her hometown in Wisconsin, but she is still a part-time professor at UW-Milwaukee teaching online psychological statistics. Heidi leads two Environmental Educators from AmeriCorps, Carly Winner and Chira Noce.

Erickson Smith is the Land Manager for Bluff Lake Nature Center. Originally from New England, he grew up exploring Massachusetts tide pools, canoeing Maine’s lakes, and looking for wild animals wherever he could find them. His work in the natural resource field began at aquariums and natural history museums before graduating from College of the Atlantic with a degree in Human Ecology. He has 8 seasons of experience with the National Park Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife doing a variety of wildlife and vegetation-related work, from collaring moose and improving stream conditions for fish, to managing noxious weeds and protecting nesting birds of prey. Erickson can’t wait to utilize his knowledge to steward Bluff Lake’s diverse resources and share his excitement about all things living with the refuge’s many visitors

Goal: Continue supporting our mission through experiential environmental learning, working to update current programming, add more diverse offerings, and work with community partners to strengthen and broaden our reach.
Progress: Worksheets and programs have been updated and edited, and we have received positive teacher feedback). All program materials have been translated into Spanish by volunteers, and new materials and marketing are consistently translated. Many new items have been purchased for field trips and put into use. New evaluation techniques for the use of equipment during field trips also are being used for better reporting. The events calendar is in an easy to access and update format, and has been met with positive feedback. Consistent and new events and programs have all been successful and much is due to the new volunteer training and support.

Goal: Manage and protect BLNC and its diverse native habitats, improve facilities for BLNC programs by completing current capital projects, and ensure future landscape values of the lake through resolution of water issues.
Progress: The Welcome Center, Nature Playground, and Wetland Ecology Station have been completed, and research is underway for other permanent structures needed to support Bluff Lake.

Goal: Increase community awareness and engagement with Bluff Lake for new and returning visitors and volunteers.
Progress: We have seen an increase in new donors that has surpassed our goals, much of which is due to an increase in visitors because of the pandemic and people seeking ways to experience nature closer to home. This, along with a record-breaking wait list for summer camps, supports a move to begin a capital campaign for building and improvements for the entire BLNC Campus.

Financials

Bluff Lake Nature Center
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
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  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Bluff Lake Nature Center

Board of directors
as of 02/08/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Lisa Pera

Deputy Eligibility Division Director, HCPF

Britta Blodgett

Sr. Communications Strategist, Colorado Workforce Development Council

Jon Fitzpatrick

Director, Land Management, Clean Energy Collective

Amy Hezel

ILS and Resource Librarian, Regis University

Steve Lundt

Certified Lake Manager, Metro Wastewater Reclamation District

Steve Norris

Former BLNC Executive Director

Harold Skramstad

Community Member

Doug Young

Western Land Group, Affiliate

Christopher Jensen

Attorney-At-Law

Christopher Jensen

Attorney-At-Law

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 1/24/2022

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Decline to state
Disability status
Decline to state

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability