The center provides visitors of the park with various educational wildlife and outdoor programs.
As described by the state Division of Parks and Forestry website, Rancocas State Park “provides an idyllic setting to observe nature up close” in a rustic setting.
However, as the website goes on to describe, there are no facilities staffed by forestry officials on site.
Instead, it’s up to the nonprofit Rancocas Nature Center to provide visitors of the park with various educational wildlife and outdoor programs.
And while the center provides for local nature enthusiasts, it’s the Friends of Rancocas Nature Center that provides for the center itself.
However, that wasn’t always the case, and it was just five years ago when the Rancocas Nature Center was in real danger of closing its doors forever.
It January 2013, when New Jersey Audubon, one the state’s largest environmental organizations and operators of nature centers throughout New Jersey, announced it was closing its Burlington County satellite center.
Although the Rancocas Nature Center had been in operation in since 1977, without an operator in the form of New Jersey Audubon, the center would have no choice but to close.
Luckily for local nature lovers, in stepped volunteers who formed the FRNC.
According to its website, FRNC has run the center independently since May 2013 through a partnership with the Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the state Division of Parks and Forestry, Westampton Township and the Rancocas Conservancy.
With Rancocas State Park measuring about 1,250 acres through Mt. Laurel, Westampton and Hainesport townships, the center itself continues to be located on 210-acre piece of the park in Westampton.
In addition to helping run the center, FRNC also serves as its financial arm to help raise money and keep the location in operation.
With that in mind, the FRNC has announced two upcoming fundraisers where locals can help support the center in its mission “to provide hands-on, science-based environmental education, and stewardship and recreational opportunities, within the cultural and historical setting of the Rancocas State Park and surrounding geographical area.”
For the FRNC’s first upcoming fundraiser, officials say the Chick-fil-A located at 58 Centerton Road at Centerton Square in Mt. Laurel will donate up to 25 percent of its sales to the nature center on Friday, Sept. 27, from 5 to 8 p.m.
According to officials, anybody making a purchase that evening simply has to say “Rancocas Nature Center” when placing their order, and those taking the order will note the donation.
“Put down your pots and pans and treat yourself to a Friday night out at Chick-fil-A to help support the Rancocas Nature Center,” said FRNC Chairman Rich Chichester in describing the event.
For the FRNC’s second upcoming fundraiser, the FRNC is once again partnering with L.L. Bean to raffle off a kayak.
The kayak for this raffle is a 10-foot Manatee Kayak package, complete with Discovery Personal Flotation Device and an L.L. Bean Kayak Paddle, all together valued at $600.
According to FRNC officials, tickets are on sale at the Rancocas Nature Center’s visitors center during its operational hours on Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.
Tickets are $5 for one or $20 for five tickets.
Officials say the winner of the package will be announced on Oct. 14 at the Burlington County Fall Float Festival at Smithville Park.
Those interested in learning more about the event or the Rancocas Nature Center can visit www.rancocasnaturecenter.org.