MAQUOKETA, Iowa — Jennifer Meyer recently walked toward the end of the deck on the marsh at Hurstville Interpretive Center, pointing out nearby wildlife.
An eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly passed by one spot, and a heron flew above the water nearby. Meyer pointed across the marsh toward a beaver lodge barely visible in the distance.
“It’s good to come out here seasonally and see where the water’s at and what kind of tracks I can find,” said Meyer, a naturalist for Jackson County Conservation.
Located just north of Maquoketa, Hurstville Interpretive Center allows visitors to learn about and experience nature both indoors and outside. The center is celebrating its 15th anniversary this weekend with an event at the site.
“Having the facility really has just opened the doors to a whole new range of visitors,” Meyer said.
Inside the center, visitors can check out small exhibits about local habitats and about the history of the Hurstville area. There are also displays with turtles, snakes, frogs, a salamander and various insects.
“If anybody wants to see something or interact with something, they can just ask a naturalist,” Meyer said.
In the surrounding nature area, visitors can roam through the habitats they learned about indoors. The site features about a half-mile of grass walking trails that route visitors through prairie landscapes and along the nearby marsh.
A sign at the frog pond instructs visitors to feel free to wade in, and a box nearby is filled with nets, buckets and boots to assist in exploration. Short trails through a patch of prairie grass form a maze for younger visitors.
“I really do believe in telling people, ‘Yes, please. Go play and explore,’” Meyer said.
Other opportunities to explore at the site include a bird blind on the marsh and a fenced-off area where visitors can view three trumpeter swans who live at the site as part of a state rehabilitation program.
“Every day is something new,” Meyer said. “I never know who I’m going to talk to and what I’m going to see.
The center’s complex also continues on the other side of U.S. 61, where visitors can access a fishing pond with a dock or take their kayaks and canoes out on the water.
Gena Horsfield, of Cuba City, Wis., visited Hurstville Interpretive Center for the first time this week with her children and a friend.
A visit to the site was one of the items on her summer to-do list, and Horsfield was impressed by what she saw. Her children enjoyed getting to explore the outdoors and play in the frog pond.
“I didn’t really know what to expect, but I really like it,” she said. “It’s somewhere we’ll probably come back again.”