The Friends’ Gardening Crew has assumed responsibility for flowerbeds around the Park Nature Center. The ultimate goal is for plantings of all native Tennessee flowers and shrubs. While working to eliminate invasive Bermuda grass without resorting to damaging herbicides, the native plants are being supplemented with nursery annuals. Identification labels enable visitors to repeat the planting in their home landscaping.
The Friends assist in a number of staff programs geared toward children and families. The group funded the purchase of the "Story Snag" for the Nature Center, a man-made tree whose recesses and hollows are filled with animal puppets. Children enjoy and learn from stories told around its base. It is especially popular in the winter. Members also volunteer to help with Summer Camp funding and programs.
In an effort to bring to life the story of Bowie Nature Park's creation, the Friends self-published Bowieland, a detailed biography of the Bowie family that focuses on Evangeline Bowie and her extraordinary journey into land conservation. The book also contains Wade Hooper's beautiful color photographs of the Park. It was published to coincide with the Park's 20th Anniversary in December 2008.
Public awareness of the history of Bowie Nature Park is a primary goal of the Friends. To that end, the group raised over $10,000 for a museum and convinced City administrators to set aside an area in the new Nature Center for that purpose.
Inside the Nature Center, a life-sized likeness of Evangeline Bowie welcomes visitors to the Bowie Museum. She also serves as anchor in a grand three-dimensional diorama illustrating forest succession, the natural progression of woodlands from pine to hardwood that was put into motion by Evangeline Bowie during the 1950's.
The Bowie Museum includes a permanent display of family items including documentation of the enormous efforts to reclaim over 700 acres of eroded farmland. Photographs, financial records and other memorabilia offer a peek into the lives of a most unusual, generous and accomplished family.
In 2012 the Friends completed an effort to archivally protect the collection of Bowie memorabilia.
Park Trails Preservation
Approximately12 miles of trails crisscross Bowie Nature Park. Most are shared by hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers, but some sections are designated for foot traffic or horseback riding only. Three sections are wheelchair accessible, and the self-guided interpretive trail around Lake Van provides a brief description of points of interest.
In 2009, as more people began to walk/run Park trails, the Friends of Bowie Nature Park recognized the need for more signage. Through their donation of $1460, 36 directional signs were added to the trail system and eight large-scale trail maps were mounted throughout the Park.
The Friends have provided hundreds of man-hours in trail improvement and maintenance. We continue to do so when asked by Park staff. During special events like Nature Fest and Fall Fest, members often lead hikes for all ages to study natural habitat.
Before setting out, new visitors should consult the official trail map found in the kiosk near the restrooms or download a trail map (http://www.bowiepark.org/) before leaving home. A $2.00 fee is collected per horse or bicycle for all trail users who live outside zip code 37062. As trails may be closed because of weather conditions, it is wise to check the Trail Hotline at (615) 799-5544.
Joann's Outdoor Classroom (www.joanntiesler.com)
Nestled in the woods a short distance from the Nature Center, Joann's Outdoor Classroom seems somehow to be in a world apart from the bustle of everyday life. It was built in 2002 by Janie Wells as a memorial to her daughter, Joann Tiesler, a lifelong nature lover whose life ended tragically a year before.
The multifunctional classroom is a 1,000 square-foot facility with stage area and seating for 100 people. It also contains lockable storage, movable tables and benches, even a cupola with bell. Its primary use is as an outdoor classroom to support park staff when students visit on field trips and during summer camp activities. It can be rented for limited private use by contacting the park staff at http://www.bowiepark.org/.
In 2011 Friends of Bowie Nature Park received a $6000 grant to provide electricity to Joann's Outdoor Classroom.