In 1987 Susan Sander, the visionary behind the development of Riverside Nature Center, became intrigued by a 9-acre field of bluebonnets in downtownKerrville and was inspired to save the property from development by turning it into a public wildflower garden. This property, the Capt. Scott Whitfield homestead, was called Riverside. It was located on Water Street within a block of the site where Kerrville was founded, and was 95% covered with native plants.
The Riverside Nature Center Association (RNCA) was organized in 1989. It had 276 members, and Susan developed an environmental education program that was presented in Kerr County schools by Kerrville Junior Service Guild members and others.
Purchase of the Scott Whitfield property could not be accomplished, so another site located at the confluence of Town Creek and the Guadalupe River, was purchased in 1992. This site required extensive clearing and replanting but it provided an excellent opportunity to demonstrate to the public how an area can be restored to become a showcase for native plants and a habitat for native wildlife.
During the next years:
HEB donated and moved the Lawson Store, an early 1900s one-room grocery store to the site and donated $22,000 for the store’s restoration.
Texas Forest Service provided four grants to plant an arboretum of native trees, develop identification signs and research materials, and provide educational programs.
Volunteers planted more than 100 native Hill Country trees in 1993.
Eagle Scouts made wood chip trails and accomplished many other projects. Other volunteers constructed the crushed granite trails.
Kerrville Area Community Trust awarded $25,000 toward the construction of a covered pavilion for classes.
A rainwater collection system and a watering system were developed by volunteers and funded by gifts.
The Nature Study Lab was constructed with $25,700 donated from the Hill Country Charity Ball Association.
RNCA leased land and easements in a mutually beneficial cooperative agreement with the City of Kerrville to provide river and creek access and expand the Nature Center to about 5 acres.
The Visitor Center was completed and dedicated in September 1999, the 10th anniversary of RNCA.
Many students and adults have participated each year in educational programs at the Nature Center. These classes provide a unique opportunity to foster awareness of plants, animals, ecology and natural resources of Kerr County.
Hundreds of community people have donated time, money and talent to make Riverside Nature Center a unique community education project.