Local nature center celebrates 20 years

On Saturday, volunteers and visitors gathered at the Runge Conservation Nature Center in Jefferson City to celebrate its 20th anniversary.

The nature center has drawn close to two million visitors since it opened on July 10, 1993. Over the years, the center has become a fixture in Jefferson City and a bastion of helping people get connected with nature.

The center itself was named after Andy Runge, who was a major contributor to the field of conservation in Missouri.

When visitors arrive, they have a variety of exhibits and live demonstrations to choose from. Most of the work is done by the center's 64 volunteers, who freely give their time to share their connection with nature to adults and children alike. Some are poets or artists, others operate various nature-related activites in other parts of Missouri. "I just think it's magical," said volunteer naturalist Jan Syrigos. "It's important for them to be in touch with nature and find out about where they came from and what's important."

Although there are many fun activities at Runge, miles of hiking trails nearby offer visitors a real chance to see living nature in its purest form. "It's not just for children," said nature center manager Cathy Cavinder. "I think some people think, 'let's go to Runge' when they have their grandkids, but we have a lot of programs for adults only, and we all need nature - whether we are an adult or a child."

It's that need for nature which keeps visitors and volunteers coming back, year after year.