Dozens of children and adults enjoyed getting up close and personal with nature on Saturday during an open house at the , held to celebrate its resurrection.
The event was geared to welcome visitors back to the center while introducing them to their natural surroundings with kid crafts, owl and butterfly presentations, bird walks and hikes along its windy, wooded trails.
"We were excited that it was open again," said Cathy Ulrich, who brought her two children to the event.
"It's awesome," she said as her children finished a craft at the the worm art painting table.
The future of the center, located at 3600 N. Green Bay Road, was uncertain a few months ago. After 50 years of being a Racine landmark and the location of many recreational activities, the YWCA decided to part ways with the field-trip favorite of Racine Unified students.
"River Bend is a treasure that we almost lost," said Melissa Warner, a volunteer at the center.
Several months - - a volunteer group called The River Bend Nature Center, Inc. secured the center and its grounds. Renovations have already begun with more planned in the future.
"Because of its size, its location, its history and its unique situation, it is, as far as I'm concerned, the premier environmental destination in Racine County," said Warner, who manned the Bat Education Awareness and Monitoring and the invasive species displays.
The center serves as an educational destination where students can learn about nature at a deeper level than in a classroom setting, Warner said.
"To think that we could have lost it … was absolutely terrifying for me as a person who is a committed environmentalist," she added.
Despite the hot, humid weather, children of all ages marveled at nature's power during the open house.
"It's fun … to look at all of the trees," said 7-year-old Michael Batten as he enjoyed a hike on one of the trials with his little sister Libby.
Inside the center, the . Some of the club's 40 members have helped clean up the center and plan to build a woodshed on the premise.
"We had been meeting here for quite awhile and we were worried about what was going to happen. So we're glad that it's opening up," said Paul Wade, a member of the club, which meets at the center on the third Thursday of each month.
The center is always in need of volunteers to fundraise, help maintain the buildings and grounds and to assist with environmental education and special events.
The center can be reached at (262) 639-1515.