June 4, 2018
The Remington Nature Center
DEFINITION: Consonant with the character of and in accordance with the nature of the area.
Connecting Our Shared History with Our Future, Alongside an Ever-Changing River Landscape
Calling all history buffs, nature lovers and curious minds! You’ll be right at home inside the doors of the Remington Nature Center. As one of St. Joseph’s most unique, hands-on educational experiences, this award-winning museum and attraction has everything – including a woolly mammoth, buffalo, Civil War items, live birds, extensive Native American artifacts, beautiful river views and a gently winding paved nature trail.
“The Missouri River is such a tremendous asset, and such a beautiful attraction. The trails, spending time together outside and enjoying nature within our doors at the Center is what we’re all about.”
Every corner of the building seems to reflect McCoy’s thoughts. Large windows allow year-round natural light to frame the surrounding trails, water and bluffs, creating an inspiring exhibit for every season. The structure is elevated on wooden beams to accommodate the nearby water, serving to enhance the view and prevent the exhibits from flooding. A natural sand area below the beams allows for the popular archaeology digs, and a stone outdoor classroom sets the perfect stage for group activities. McCoy notes that dozens of regional school groups from across the Midwest make the journey for field trips. Students of all ages enjoy the fossils covering the large boulders on the Remington Nature Center grounds.
The view from both inside and outside of the nature center is always a show-stopper across all weather patterns. “There’s really no better place to see the seasons change,” says McCoy. “We can see summertime rain and storms move in and boats on the river. Fall is gorgeous down here. It’s also beautiful in winter to see nesting eagles every year. It’s not uncommon to see eagles in winter on ice caps, hunting for fish.
“It’s our goal to complement the natural surroundings and be unique at the same time,” she says. “Our team is always encouraging visitors to take a new look at what’s around our building and inside it, because the landscape is always changing. This changes the messages our exhibits can bring, too.”
As a true cultural history gem, the Nature Center’s staff, board, curators and the community continue to work diligently together to celebrate the region’s prehistoric and Native American heritage. “The exhibits connect people to our history as fellow human beings, as tribal beings and honor our creativity and resourcefulness. For the Native Americans who lived here, the river was their lifeline. We want to tell the story of how they used the river and surrounding natural elements in this exact area.”
McCoy’s enthusiasm for her work is lifelong and impacts the way she tells this story today. She grew up on a farm, where she says she became very interested in history and nature. Her dad, amateur archeologist Mike George, helped her start collecting cultural artifacts years ago. “As a child, I loved to fish and explore nature in every way possible. With a degree in Mass Communications, I can create Nature Center programming, organize trips and work with people all within the backdrop of this beautiful area. The history and nature here are so important to me, and I hope that everyone who comes through the doors sees that.”
For McCoy, telling this important story means adapting the events at the Remington Nature Center to showcase what makes the local community special. Several annual gatherings, including recycling events, classic car shows, archaeological digs for children, summer experiences and the popular Rockin’ On the River concert event, co-hosted by the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce, have been held on the 13,000 square foot space scenic parking lot adjacent to the Center.
“No matter what events are held, we want people to come away with a new appreciation for what St. Joseph has to offer and to know that learning really can be fun,” says McCoy. “We’re accessible to people of all backgrounds, ADA compliant and offer several audio/visual accessibility resources. This is the community’s Nature Center and we’re privileged to manage it.”
The only thing that compares to sharing the landscape and the exhibits, she says, is seeing multiple generations of families enjoy the center together. “Sometimes we have a bridal or baby shower for a family, and then a few years later, we host a birthday party for their children. It’s really rewarding to see that the center is promoting a sense of community.”
“Everything we do is to promote the Remington Nature Center as a resource for everyone,” says McCoy. “We bring exhibits out to area festivals, schools and even nursing homes because we want people to know that this is their Center.
“We’re truly finding our place as a resource in St. Joseph but also across the Midwest. We draw visitors from Kansas City, Omaha, Jefferson City, Des Moines and surrounding areas. The region loves this facility and embraces it together – and this gives us a sense of place and nature and history, looking at both who we were as people and what we can be in the future.”
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