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‘Nature is a great learning laboratory;’ Severson Dells Nature Center celebrates 45 years

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — In 1976 the Severson family donated their Rockford land so that all people can enjoy and learn from nature. The property has been used as a nature center and forest preserve for the last 45 years.

Nature is Andrea Wallace Noble's first love. When it came time to reach for her dream job, she went back to the place where she found that love, summer camp.

"Ignite a deep love, and almost like a magical sense of awe and wonder for the natural beauty around us, so seeing staff unlock that potential and connection in children and members of the public made me want to do that," said Noble.

A fitting outlook for an educator at Severson Dells Nature Center. It's a place grounded on outdoor recreation, learning opportunities and community.

"Nature is a great learning laboratory," said Severson Dells Nature Center Director Ann Wasser. "It's great for people of all ages to just hone in on their observations skills, really stop and take a moment to listen."

This past year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, time was no longer an excuse to not hit the trails.

"The camping in forest preserves increased dramatically, playing golf at the forest preserve golf courses increased a lot. Just the boat traffic on the Kishwaukee River, lots of people out paddling and tubbing," said Wasser.

The director and nature advocate says she considers our area lucky because Winnebago County has almost 20,000 acres of protected green space.

"I am always drawn to water, so I love spending time by the pond, in the creek looking at the crayfish," said Wasser when asked what her favorite spot is at Severson Dells.

She hopes more people will take the initiative to improve water quality and restore habitat space in forest preserves.

"We are battling screen time. People, adults and children alike, are spending more time on screen. How can we get them away from it to really engage outdoors, because it is so beneficial to our health," said Wasser.

Severson Dells has planted love through nature for generations, because nature is for everyone nature is for all.

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Cassandra Bretl

Cassandra is the morning reporter for 13 News Today.
She joined the WREX team in July of 2019 after graduating from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee with a major, minor and a certificate.
She is excited to bring her skills back to the 815 where she is originally from.
You can contact Cassandra at

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