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WILMOT –– A nature nut, Barb Vitcosky was always curious about her outdoor surroundings while growing up in Pennsylvania.
“I loved looking under rocks and was undaunted by the slippery and slimy leaves,” said Vitcosky, who put that passion and curiosity to work at The Wilderness Center, a 3,600 acre non-profit nature complex that includes 10 miles of hiking trails, breath-taking forests, streams, prairies and farmlands, as well as an Interpretive Building with nature store and wildlife observation room.
Then, once she moved to Wooster, Vitcosky, now the Development Director at The Wilderness Center, quickly became involved in the local astronomer’s club, linking her to the Center and feeding her love for the environment.
“When I saw a job open up here, I was the first to apply four years ago,” Vitcosky said, reliving how she landed her dream job.
For 50 years, the Wilderness Center has been providing unique experiences for all visitors. From astronomers, who take advantage of the Astronomy Education Building with Planetarium and Observatory, to the Wild Edibles club, a group dedicated to forging creative culinary feasts off the land, The Wilderness Center has something for everyone.
“We welcome nature lovers from every age and walk of life,” Vitcosky said. “We have 10 miles of hiking trails that change with the season. You can visit us again and again, and it will always look a little different. In our Interpretive Building, we have educational displays and an Wildlife Observation Room, where people will come for hours.
“You never know what you’ll be able to find here,” Vitcosky said.
While the Wilderness Center reported over 76,900 visitors to its Interpretive Building last year, it’s 700 volunteers, Vitcosky said, is what makes it a truly unique place.
And the volunteers do everything from answering phones to office work to guiding tours.
“The volunteers make us special,” she said. “A lot of children have had their first impressions of nature on the walks that are led by Wilderness Center volunteers. They do a great job of introducing people to wildlife and nature. ... It makes it special.”
While volunteers introduce kids to nature through guided walks, The Wilderness Center fosters that learning with a handful of programs and over a dozen clubs, including a bird club, botanizers club and cavers and climbers.
“Wild Edibles, that’s my little pet project,” Vitcosky said with a laugh. “We go forge for edible eats, and it’s really growing in popularity.”
Earthly Delight, The Wilderness Center’s biggest fundraiser, is slated for Sept. 10 at Gervasi Vineyards in Canton. The event usually generates over $100,000.
Starting last year, Ales to Trails, a beer, food and music festival, on July 18 at The Wilderness Center has quickly become one of its most popular events.
“We have beers, food and music. It’s all outdoor, too, so we’re hoping for good weather,” Vitcosky said.
The Wilderness Center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. For more information, check out wildernesscenter.org.