A Letter to the Warner Park Nature Center

Planters in an organic garden

As a shy kid with vague interests in “working with wildlife or something” that has grown up to be the Natural Resource Supervisor for my city, I would like to thank the City of Nashville’s Warner Park Nature Center for getting me where I am today. When I think back on the things that have shaped my love of nature and guided my environmental career, I find that the positive influence of the Warner Park Nature Center (WPNC) has been profound, inestimable.

My relationship with the Warner Parks began before I can remember, picnicking and hiking with my family for countless hours of free and safe access to Tennessee’s nature. I asked to intern at the Nature Center for my senior year of high school and, wow, no one could ask for a better community resource for a young student and hopeful environmental professional! The internship provided excellent resume highlights that have helped me throughout my career: teaching and light public speaking through assisting with nature programming, museum curation in a superb natural history exhibit hall, volunteer engagement through invasive species management projects, field data tracking for ornithological conservation, natural history writing, ecological horticulture, and, of course, municipal public service to my community. Through the fantastic WPNC staff I was exposed for the first time to different fields of study in the natural sciences. I found role models I could ask for advice, and, importantly, professional female role models, I could be proud to emulate. 

Following my internship, two glorious summers working for the Special Work Education And Trails Team (SWEAT) taught me about natural resource management, ecological restoration, comradery, leadership (it was my very first opportunity to serve as a supervisor), and cultivating a serious work ethic. The Nature Center was our base camp for maintaining the teaching gardens and over 10 miles (even more now!) of serene trails through field and forest. I use these skills and those learned from my internship daily in my work for the City of Chattanooga. In fact the passion cultivated at the WPNC is surely what has led me to co-found Chattanooga’s growing Natural Resource Team thereby expanding environmental protection in Tennessee. 

I have carried WPNC lessons and influence to every park I have worked for for the last 17 years including the Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center, and the City of Chattanooga Water Quality Program and now the Department of Parks and Outdoors. And there are so many other people like me! I have met so many WPNC Internship and SWEAT Team alumni mingling at conferences, working with local non-profits, running businesses, and speaking in webinars all inspired by their experience with the WPNC. 

In so many ways the WPNC is an incubator for environmental knowledge and conservation. It has set me up for success in my life’s goals of protecting natural places and serving my community wherever I have traveled. It has opened up countless opportunities for study, work, and play for countless visitors, volunteers, interns, and workers. I believe this is worth celebrating.

Thank you, 

Lyn Rutherford

Natural Resource Supervisor 

Dept. of Parks and Outdoors, Chattanooga, Tennessee

For 50 years, the Warner Park Nature Center has impacted the hearts and minds of countless students, parents, families, researchers, nature lovers, and more. We hope you will join us this year as we celebrate this golden anniversary and incredible milestone for WPNC. 

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