Aullwood Audobon Center and Farm has announced its plans to reopen for members only, beginning July 1.
The farm, Discovery Center and nature sanctuary trails will be open to members with new extended summer hours from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1-7 p.m. Sunday. The Nature Store and Gift Shop has relocated to the Farm Discovery Center with an expanded selection of products including meat and eggs.
Located about 10 miles northwest of downtown Dayton, Aullwood has been an environmental education hub for the region for decades. In 1957, Marie Aull donated her land to the Miami Valley, creating the National Audubon Society’s first nature center in the Midwest, according to Aullwood’s website.
For safety, changes include limiting the number of people inside Farm Discovery Center, renovating bathrooms to be as touch-free as possible and daily deep cleaning of the facility and frequent cleaning of high-touch areas. Visitors are required to wear masks when inside the farm, excluding children age 2 and under and those with medical issues. Single-use masks will be available for purchase, according to a news release.
Hand sanitizer stations will be available throughout the site and one-way traffic patterns have been established.
After evaluating re-opening protocols with members, Aullwood hopes to re-open to the general public later this summer, according to the release.
>> PHOTOS: Gorgeous Aullwood Garden is in full bloom
The Marie S. Aull Education Center at 1000 Aullwood Road, and its parking lot, will remain closed to the public at this time. A fundraising campaign will begin soon to raise the funds required to renovate this much older building to bring its safety features and exhibits up to appropriate standards, according to the release.
Impact of the shutdown
Local non-profits have needed to get creative to survive the coronavirus pandemic, including Aullwood Audobon. Despite the challenges, its executive director sees some good coming out of the bad.
Aullwood’s ever-popular Farm Babies Fest, held each spring for the past 16 years, had to be canceled this spring in response to the COVID-19 shutdown. The festival is one of the non-profit’s main sources of funding.
>>Coronavirus: Loss of events creates ‘huge’ financial blow
“It’s been very difficult, obviously to not only be isolated, but we’ve had layoffs,” said Alexis Faust, Aullwood’s executive director. “The whole revenue model for a non-profit like us has changed. So we have to navigate that and figure out who we’re going to be and how we’re going to be in the future.”
During the shutdown, the farm has been having fun interacting with visitors on its Facebook page.
Every Tuesday at 3 p.m., kids and families can tune into the whimsical concert series “Chris’s Critters: Songs at Aullwood Audubon,” naturalist-led nature walks are broadcast on the page every Thursday at 3 p.m. and “Art in Nature at Aullwood Audubon” is broadcast every Friday afternoon.
“I’m certainly not saying that COVID-19 is a good thing, but sometimes when things that are this drastic happen, they force you to re-look at everything you’re doing,” Faust said. “And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”
An example of the good Faust has already seen come out of the crisis has been many institutions being forced to better integrate technology into education after years of uncertainty on how to make that happen.
“There is always an opportunity in everything,” Faust said. “If you look back through history, a lot of these enormous revolutions that our society has gone through has been prompted by some tragedy or event that has shaken us up at our roots. A lot of innovation comes out of necessity.”
Excited to get visitors back to the farm, Faust said the staff and volunteers have gone above and beyond to continue giving the farm’s animals the same care they received pre-coronavirus. The center has more than 100 animals it cares for every day, and Faust said the animals might miss the visitors as much as the staff.
“All of our animals are very people-oriented, so I think they’re a little needy right now,” Faust said. … “If I’m walking up there in the morning, they’re yelling before I get the gate open. They have been raised very carefully around people and that’s part of their social network.”
Without visitors, Toot and Puddle, Aullwood’s most popular pig couple, have been getting to roam the farm freely on occasion, as well as the chickens. And a farm first, Faust caught the barn cats sleeping with the pigs this spring.
“They’ve never done that before and it could be they’re a little more social with each other because they just miss people and there’s not as many of us around,” Faust said.
As it works to get back on its feet and return to a new normal, people can donate to Aullwood by visiting its website at aullwood.audubon.org.
“It’s definitely difficult and change is scary and all of that, but at the end of the day, I think what will come out is going to be something that’s even more extraordinary than what Aullwood has been,” Faust said.
HOW TO BECOME A MEMBER
Visit www.aullwood.org and visit the Membership page or come to Aullwood Audubon Farm at 9101 Frederick Pike beginning July 1 between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. to join. Membership packages start at $40 for individuals ($20 for students) and $50 for a family of four.
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