Jerry Kozlansky is no stranger to Silver Lake Nature Center. He’s been visiting for about a decade, ever since he moved to Bucks County from Connecticut to take a job with the New Jersey Audubon Society.
He discovered the center while renting a home in the Mill Creek section of Levittown, and booked his daughter’s fourth birthday party there after just one visit. Since settling in Morrisville, Kozlansky has been exploring the grounds and volunteering there ever since.
Now, along with visitor, member and volunteer, he’s got a new title at Silver Lake: Boss.
Last month, and just in time for Silver Lake’s 50th anniversary, Kozlansky became the director-naturalist for the 253-acre nature center located on Bath Road in Bristol Township. He’s following in the footsteps of Robert Mercer, who was the director for 40 years.
For Kozlansky, the position is a culmination of his 25 years as an administrator and teacher in various nature centers and related organization across the country. “I’ve been coming here for 10 years. I love the place,” said Kozlansky. “I’ve been traveling around and teaching all my life and this was an opportunity to run a whole center.”
One of his goals for the years to come is for more people to share that admiration — for the center and the environment as a whole.
“I’m a huge proponent of environmental education,” said Kozlansky. He talks about how, for instance, 30 years ago highways were covered with trash from people throwing garbage out of car windows. Today, that once-regular practice is shunned, just as recycling household items is now commonplace.
Those trends changed, he noted, due in large part to education efforts and the kinds of outreach projects Kozlansky’s worked on for years, and that Silver Lake already offers.
“I’ve been part of those changes over my career, and that’s what can happen here,” he said, “The awareness of the environment — I’ve seen it in my early life, how people were unaware of the damage they were creating, or the need for its protection.”
Now, he’s looking forward to learning more about all the center’s programs and how they work, getting more involved with them and, perhaps most importantly, making sure more and more people know they’re available.
“I want it to be more accessible to the local public,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s being utilized to its full potential. Many people know it’s here and it’s great, but some only know it as a patch of woods. They don’t know all the wonderful things that happen here.”
Of course, plenty of people already know about the center. Groups like the Focal Planes photographer’s club and Artists of Bristol already hold their regular meetings there, and over the last decade or so Silver Lake’s own programming grew to include day camps and pre-school activities. It’s also become a place for boy and girl scouts of all ages, not just those doing Eagle Scout projects, to visit and volunteer.
But, there are also opportunities to emphasize programming like kayaking classes, day camps, yoga classes and strolls and bird walks throughout the summer. Silver Lake still has more 50th anniversary events coming up this year, including a concert at its amphitheater, a flea market and craft festival in September and Fall Fling in November.
The center also has its place in the environmental community at large. It’s home to the only Earthship, a self-sustainable building, on the East Coast, that serves as a model and educational tool for others to emulate.
It’s built in a unique place: Silver Lake is unusual in that is has a bog, wetlands and swamp all on its property — unusual especially for its location, but made possible thanks to its proximity to the Delaware River.
That helps make it a home to a wide variety of wildlife, and Silver Lake contributes to national databases with regular bird and butterfly counts, helping make a “snapshot” of those populations.
All those efforts add up to ways people — be they visitors, volunteers or just members of the community — can see the bigger picture when it comes to their relationship to nature.
“We’re part of the ecosystem. I think some people have forgotten that,” said Kozlansky. “One of my goals is to bring people in, to stop being disconnected, and remind people we’re part of this.”
For information, visit www.silverlakenaturecenter.org.