Nature Center has come a long way since its
closure in 2002, and reopening in 2005. With
city funding not available to operate the center
when it was shut down, Huntington Beach citizens
who loved the Center banded together and created
a plan and non-profit organization to reach a
goal of re-opening it.
County Chapter of California Native Plant
Society in 2002 published this article
Shipley Nature Center Formed and is Working
The City of Huntington Beach placed a padlock on
the gate to Shipley Nature Center (“the Center”)
October 1, 2002 because of budget cuts.
About 40,000 visitors enjoyed this 18-acre urban
environmental education center annually. The
Friends of Shipley Nature Center (“the
Friends”), a non-profit group formed in January
to help support the Center, is working with the
city to help restore the habitat that had become
overgrown with weeds and littered with dead
trees. The Friends hope to see the Center reopen
with the tours reinstated—but there is no budget
money allocated for full restoration or rehiring
of the former Park Naturalist at this time.
The Center is located within Huntington Central
Park. Adults were able to walk on the
self-guided tour and see wildlife such as
Western Fence Lizards, a coyote or a skunk,
orioles, hummingbirds and other birds, and a
rich variety of spiders.
David Winkler, the Park Naturalist, led about
9,000 school children on the nature trails
through forests of sycamores and Torrey Pines,
then to wetlands with cattails and bulrush.
David also maintained an interpretive center
with close-up wildlife like snakes, turtles, and
tarantulas that the children (and adults, too)
loved. This Center is now closed, with the
animals given away to new homes.
The city has signed a contract with Tatsumi and
Partners for a landscape plan that, if fully
implemented, will create twelve separate native
plant habitats, including willow forests and
coastal sage shrub. Also included in this
landscape plan are demonstration gardens, such
as a butterfly garden and a California native
plant home garden. This, along with new trees,
will replace the overgrowth of non-native weeds
that has been allowed to occur over the years.
The Friends group was formed to educate the
community on the importance of Shipley Nature
Center. The Center provides people a location to
gain a greater appreciation and knowledge of
nature in an urban location. According to the
California Department of Education, “Research
and classroom-based studies show that students
in experiential environmental education programs
learn better, are better citizens, and transfer
their learning to new situations better.”
The Friends and the city are arranging to open
the doors for the Friends to help restore the
area with native plants during designated times.
The Friends have worked closely with The
Huntington Beach Tree Society to plant some
trees already. The Friends group is also
fundraising, applying for grants, starting a
docent program, and finding other ways to help
the Center. People are joining together in
bipartisan support to save Shipley Nature
time when Shipley Nature Center opened in 1974
over 30 years ago, many changes have occurred.
What's amazing is that there are a new crop of
individuals involved in this Central Park
ecosystem, and some believe it or not, some who
were there on the ground floor when the Shipley
Nature Center was first formed. Shirley Dettloff
is one example of an individual who, throughout
time, has volunteered to keep the park alive.
All of us who have benefitted from the years of
effort send a heart-felt thanks to those who
have been stewards for this valuable, 18 acre