The Chico Creek Nature Center’s commitment to Bidwell Park education began in the mid-seventies by a coalition of environmental and recreation groups that offered nature programs and wildlife rehabilitation services. Wildlife rehabilitation is no longer offered by the Nature Center but The Janeece Webb Living Animal Museum still serves as a second-chance home for rehabbed, non-releasable animals.
In 1888 a State Board of Forestry Experimental Station was established where the Chico Creek Nature Center currently exists from land donated by John Bidwell (founder of the City of Chico). The purpose of the Forestry Station was to find trees for various uses that were suited to the area. Today, thirty-seven acres of conifer and hardwood trees from many parts of the world still exist here, including a cork forest (see the World of Trees Trail brochure). A barn that was part of this station, built around 1900, burned in June 2006.
From 1921 until 1975 the site was then used as the Park Headquarters. The 1975 Bidwell Park Master Plan stated that “when the facility is removed [Park Headquarters] … it should be …developed into a nature center.”
From 1954-1958 a small zoo operated on the property, with monkeys, a raccoon, a mountain lion, an opossum and others, but was eventually closed due to complaints of noise and smell, and allegations of improper housing and feeding. Fluffy the Bear’s enclosure still exists, thus the name “Bear’s Lair.” The deer pen was there before that, managed by the CA State Department of Fish and Game to house injured and confiscated deer until the last one died in 2005. Wild deer still get in through the open gate.
Janeece Webb Living Animal Museum & Bear’s Lair
In 1991, our former Director Janeece Webb completed construction of the Living Animal Museum, now named for her. Volunteers from the building community and many other donations were responsible for completion of this community-wide project. The Nature Center grounds were cleaned up and improved with a native plant garden and a picnic area with benches in what is now called Bear’s Lair. The impressive makeover was included efforts by Soroptomist International of Chico, the Mt. Lassen Chapter of the California Native Plant Society and a local Boy Scout troop. Bear’s Lair is now a popular site for parties and wedding ceremonies.
Howard S. Tucker Hall & Kristie’s Lab
The building of our newest building was also a wide spread community effort. Howard S. Tucker Hall opened in Spring of 2010, and was designed to serve as a micro-version of Bidwell Park, highlighting in a single room the topography, geology, cultural history, flora, and fauna of Bidwell Park. The same building houses Kristie’s Nature Lab, a classroom for school programs and community workshops our offices and storage.
The Center serves as the official information and education center for Bidwell Park. Offering the public; park maps and directions, guided walks, family programs, camps and a chance to meet our collection of living animals. We are also a resource for regional schools providing many standards aligned field trip options and professional development programs including Project WILD and Project Learning Tree for teachers and informal educators alike. The Center also affords many volunteer opportunities to the community as well as internships for local college students.
The Chico Creek Nature Center – 1968 E 8th Street, Chico, CA, 95928 – firstname.lastname@example.org – phone (530) 891-4671 – fax (530) 891-0837