Chattanooga Nature Center and Reflection Riding Aboretum and Botanical Garden are announcing a plan today to merge their staffs and boards of directors, as well as adopt a new name - the Chattanooga Arboretum and Nature Center.
Though technically two entities, they will combine their resources and expand educational offerings, said John Mitchum, president of the newly established board of directors.
Reflection Riding Land and Conservation Trust is the steward of the land and resources for the Chattanooga Arboretum and Nature Center, Mitchum said.
"The trust is the silent partner," he said.
Chattanooga Arboretum and Nature Center, located at the foot of Lookout Mountain in Lookout Valley, will "be a much stronger and efficient organization," said Jean Lomino, executive director of the combined organization.
"We will have one website and one newsletter," she said.
Combining the two organizations will save money, said Angie Conroy, vice president of the board of directors.
"Funding is a huge issue," she said. "With so much land conservation and preservation going on in the Chattanooga area, we're all going for funding. It makes more sense to merge into one organization."
Still, area residents dig deep into their pockets to support the organizations, Mitchum said.
"We're in the black," he said. "In a time of economic upset, we're operating better than ever. With this unified organization, we'll do even better. This is a winning organization. We are a model of sustainable living."
Reflection Riding was established in 1956 and the Chattanooga Nature Center in 1979, Conroy said.
Reflection Riding, a 300-acre arboretum, botanical garden and historic site, was started by John and Margaret Chambliss as a means of studying and conserving native plant life to be enjoyed by nature lovers.
The property includes Humphreys House, a fully equipped facility that can accommodate groups up to 50 people, and the Pavilion, an open-air, screened-in facility that can accommodate up to 75 people, both available for rental. It also has 12 miles of hiking trails.
Chattanooga Nature Center was formed on land donated by Reflection Riding and acquired from the family of Harold and Marie Humphreys in a joint development effort initiated by former Reflection Riding board Chairwoman Susan Chambliss Irvine and the Junior League of Chattanooga, according to Conroy.
The Nature Center offers educational programs, summer camps, wildlife exhibits, Paddler's Perch, an elevated cabin alongside Lookout Creek available for overnight rentals, and the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan.
The nature center is helping to restore the number of red wolves through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Red Wolf Species Survival Plan, a cooperative population management and conservation program for endangered species at zoos, aquariums and nature centers in North America. The Chattanooga Nature Center is one of 40 facilities that house red wolves.
Officials hope the name change will encourage residents and guests to visit or revisit the property.
"We've got so much natural beauty here, including some endangered plants," Lomino said. "We want people to understand and love the land where they live."