Elkhart Environmental Center.

Elkhart Environmental Center.

Elkhart Environmental
Center.

The Elkhart Environmental Center has been opened to
the public since 1992! This environmental
education facility offers environmental educational
programs, events, and volunteer opportunities for all
citizens as well as a lovely natural area to visit. The EEC has multiple outdoor settings including hiking trails, a boat launch, a variety of ecosystems (such as wetlands, prairies, and forest areas), the Learning Garden, Reflection Grove, boat launch, and more!

.

574-293-5070

 

Follow us on social media!

Elkhart Environmental Center

Downloadable Resources

Download Elkhart Environment Center resources by click on the links below:

Elkhart Environmental 
Center.

The Elkhart Environmental Center has been opened to the public since 1992! This environmental education facility offers environmental educational
programs, events, and volunteer opportunities for all citizens as well as a lovely natural area to visit. The EEC has multiple outdoor settings including hiking trails, a boat launch, a variety of ecosystems (such as wetlands, prairies, and forest areas), the Learning Garden, Reflection Grove, boat launch, and more!

.

574-293-5070

 

Follow us on social media!

Downloadable Resources

Download Elkhart Environment Center resources by click on the links below:

Special
Events

The Elkhart Environmental Center’s biggest event of the year! This year, we celebrate the 25th Annual EnviroFest! Past events have include food vendors, booths, raffle & silent auction, live music, kids’ area and entertainment, beer & wine garden, and more!

Details for 2021 coming soon!

Visit the Elkhart EnviroFest website!

The Elkhart Environmental Center’s Earth Day event is a free, family-friendly event that celebrates our natural, local environment. Our Earth Day event includes engaging, environmental educational activities for the whole family and provides free trees for citizens to plant at home and increase our urban canopy. Support and sponsorships from community organizations truly make this event possible. 

Visit Elkhart’s Earth Day page!

Our favorite day of the year! We love getting to celebrate our volunteers and all they’ve done to help us have another successful year serving and educating the community.

Upcoming Programs
& Events

What is ElkhartWood?

ElkhartWood is a full-circle urban wood utilization program, designed to reduce waste and increase the urban forestry canopy in Elkhart.

Ever wonder what happens to our street trees after they are taken down? Many of the trees and limbs that are removed in the City are only suitable for firewood or wood chips, BUT there is a small fraction of these logs that are high-quality and more suitable for furniture, art, and other “value-added” products. These logs are brought to the Elkhart Environmental Center and sold to local woodworkers.

How can I become involved?
  • Community members: Attend public programs and learn more about ElkhartWood, and even purchase locally-grown and -made pieces! Email EECmail@coei.org for more information or updates about upcoming programs or opportunities, or check in on our Facebook page.
  • Woodworkers: Join our ElkhartWood email list to receive updates on our inventory, Sawmill Days, and events by emailing EECmail@coei.org. You can also become a program speaker or lead a workshop.

What’s available?

Our inventory comes from the trees on the street–meaning, our inventory is limited to what needs to come down around the City. We only collect high-quality logs, but species, length, and DIB vary. To receive our most updated inventory list, email EECmail@coei.org, stop by our Visitor’s Cabin, or click here.

Why choose ElkhartWood?

ElkhartWood is a local source of lumber. It is a great place to find interesting and storied logs for all kinds of projects. Urban wood can be used for a variety of purposes, including achieving green building standards (e.g.) and count as “reclaimed urban lumber.” When you choose to purchase Elkhart logs, you are also supporting the community–money made from log sales goes directly into funding educational programs by the Elkhart Environmental Center (EEC), both at the EEC and around the City.

Elkhart Wood Logo

Our new Zero-Waste Program, brought to you by the Elkhart Environmental Center and the Elkhart Public Library! We are excited to announce that registration is now open!

Do you want to challenge yourself to reduce your waste impact on the planet in the new year? If so, sign up for this new virtual program that will provide you with information about zero-waste and challenge you to decrease the amount of waste you produce. For a period of 10 weeks, participants will receive a weekly email with information, resources, and a simple challenge revolving around a zero-waste topic. All participants will receive a free DIY beeswax kit near the end of the program in March, and those who participate in at least 50% of the weekly challenges over the course of the series will be entered to win a grand prize including awesome reusable products! The more you participate, the more times you will be entered to win.

This program registration is only open to adults, but parents are welcome to involve their kids in challenges. Registration will be open from Monday, January 11th until Sunday, February 21st, but signing up at the beginning of the program will give you the best chance of winning the grand prize. Registration is limited to 50 people. Weekly emails will be sent out every Monday for 10 weeks beginning on Monday, January 18th. If you have any questions about the program, please feel free to send us an email at eecmail@coei.org.

Register at https://forms.gle/SSJVybdW2jeE5b2c7

Join our annual river clean ups in the Elkhart and St. Joseph Rivers throughout Elkhart!

This is an annual event: please watch our website and Facebook pages for updates. To be added to our River Cleanup Email List, please email EECmail@coei.org.

Please dress appropriately for the activities and the weather (we recommend closed-toed shoes–preferably waders or rain boots if you have them, clothes you don’t mind getting dirty/wet, and towels). Bags and trash pickers will be provided and filled bags will be collected at stop points along the route.

Please register ahead of time, as spots are limited.

If you have any questions, please contact us at 574-293-5070 or EECmail@coei.org.

Special
Events

The Elkhart Environmental Center’s biggest event of the year! This year, we celebrate the 25th Annual EnviroFest! Past events have include food vendors, booths, raffle & silent auction, live music, kids’ area and entertainment, beer & wine garden, and more!

Details for 2021 coming soon!

Visit the Elkhart EnviroFest website!

The Elkhart Environmental Center’s Earth Day event is a free, family-friendly event that celebrates our natural, local environment. Our Earth Day event includes engaging, environmental educational activities for the whole family and provides free trees for citizens to plant at home and increase our urban canopy. Support and sponsorships from community organizations truly make this event possible. 

Visit Elkhart’s Earth Day page!

Our favorite day of the year! We love getting to celebrate our volunteers and all they’ve done to help us have another successful year serving and educating the community.

Upcoming Programs
& Events

What is ElkhartWood?

ElkhartWood is a full-circle urban wood utilization program, designed to reduce waste and increase the urban forestry canopy in Elkhart.

Ever wonder what happens to our street trees after they are taken down? Many of the trees and limbs that are removed in the City are only suitable for firewood or wood chips, BUT there is a small fraction of these logs that are high-quality and more suitable for furniture, art, and other “value-added” products. These logs are brought to the Elkhart Environmental Center and sold to local woodworkers.

How can I become involved?
  • Community members: Attend public programs and learn more about ElkhartWood, and even purchase locally-grown and -made pieces! Email EECmail@coei.org for more information or updates about upcoming programs or opportunities, or check in on our Facebook page.
  • Woodworkers: Join our ElkhartWood email list to receive updates on our inventory, Sawmill Days, and events by emailing EECmail@coei.org. You can also become a program speaker or lead a workshop.

What’s available?

Our inventory comes from the trees on the street–meaning, our inventory is limited to what needs to come down around the City. We only collect high-quality logs, but species, length, and DIB vary. To receive our most updated inventory list, email EECmail@coei.org, stop by our Visitor’s Cabin, or click here.

Why choose ElkhartWood?

ElkhartWood is a local source of lumber. It is a great place to find interesting and storied logs for all kinds of projects. Urban wood can be used for a variety of purposes, including achieving green building standards (e.g.) and count as “reclaimed urban lumber.” When you choose to purchase Elkhart logs, you are also supporting the community–money made from log sales goes directly into funding educational programs by the Elkhart Environmental Center (EEC), both at the EEC and around the City.

Elkhart Wood Logo

Our new Zero-Waste Program, brought to you by the Elkhart Environmental Center and the Elkhart Public Library! We are excited to announce that registration is now open!

Do you want to challenge yourself to reduce your waste impact on the planet in the new year? If so, sign up for this new virtual program that will provide you with information about zero-waste and challenge you to decrease the amount of waste you produce. For a period of 10 weeks, participants will receive a weekly email with information, resources, and a simple challenge revolving around a zero-waste topic. All participants will receive a free DIY beeswax kit near the end of the program in March, and those who participate in at least 50% of the weekly challenges over the course of the series will be entered to win a grand prize including awesome reusable products! The more you participate, the more times you will be entered to win.

This program registration is only open to adults, but parents are welcome to involve their kids in challenges. Registration will be open from Monday, January 11th until Sunday, February 21st, but signing up at the beginning of the program will give you the best chance of winning the grand prize. Registration is limited to 50 people. Weekly emails will be sent out every Monday for 10 weeks beginning on Monday, January 18th. If you have any questions about the program, please feel free to send us an email at eecmail@coei.org.

Register at https://forms.gle/SSJVybdW2jeE5b2c7

Join our annual river clean ups in the Elkhart and St. Joseph Rivers throughout Elkhart!

This is an annual event: please watch our website and Facebook pages for updates. To be added to our River Cleanup Email List, please email EECmail@coei.org.

Please dress appropriately for the activities and the weather (we recommend closed-toed shoes–preferably waders or rain boots if you have them, clothes you don’t mind getting dirty/wet, and towels). Bags and trash pickers will be provided and filled bags will be collected at stop points along the route.

Please register ahead of time, as spots are limited.

If you have any questions, please contact us at 574-293-5070 or EECmail@coei.org.

Education

The Elkhart Environmental Center (EEC) offers a variety of environmental education programming and placed-based learning throughout the year. Provided is a list of some of our more commonly-requested programming topics and some of the amenities that make the EEC a great venue. If you are looking for something specific and do not see it listed below, we do offer a boutique experience and are happy to cater our programming to your needs. Please contact staff for more information.

More details coming soon!

More information coming soon!

More information coming soon!

Earth Day

Education

The Elkhart Environmental Center (EEC) offers a variety of environmental education programming and placed-based learning throughout the year. Provided is a list of some of our more commonly-requested programming topics and some of the amenities that make the EEC a great venue. If you are looking for something specific and do not see it listed below, we do offer a boutique experience and are happy to cater our programming to your needs. Please contact staff for more information.

More details coming soon!

More information coming soon!

More information coming soon!

Earth Day

Volunteer
Opportunities

We offer a variety of volunteer opportunities that are suitable for businesses, organizations, groups, and individuals. As part of our environmental education goals, all of our volunteer opportunities are also offered with optional training. Interested in learning about a plant or tree ID, environmental management, event planning, or more? Volunteer!

Looking for something specific? View the categories below to discover which one best fits you.

Please call (574) 293-5070 or email EECmail@coei.org with any questions.

You can also find details about and sign up for upcoming volunteer opportunities on our SignUp page.

All volunteers are required to fill out and return a volunteer waiver. Copies are also available at the Visitor’s Cabin.

Waivers for volunteers under the age of 18 must be signed by a parent/guardian. Volunteers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent/guardian while volunteering.

EnviroFest

We offer volunteer opportunities throughout the year. Below are the upcoming, scheduled volunteer events and activities–please check them out and let us know if you are interested in helping (EECmail@coei.org or (574) 293-5070.

If you would like to schedule your own volunteer event, we can do that, too! Please contact EEC staff at EECmail@coei.org or (574) 293-5070 to schedule your own group volunteer day.

Envirofest

UPDATE: Meetings will now be held virtually
This is our biggest event of the year AND the biggest EnviroFest yet: help us plan our 25th EnviroFest for 2021! The goal of EnviroFest is to engage and educate the community on environmental and sustainable initiatives and we want this event to go above and beyond for the 25th anniversary.
Are you looking to be more engaged in environmental initiatives in the community? Do you have great ideas that you are excited to share and make happen? Join our EnviroFest Planning Committee!
EnviroFest Committee members help us develop the Raffle & Silent Auction, the theme and entertainment for the Kids’ Area, educational speakers, zero waste initiatives, and more. Join us for snacks and a monthly meeting on how to make this community event the best it has ever been!
Veteran volunteers and EEC staff are looking for new volunteers with new ideas and enthusiasm to support the event and even take ownership of their own subcommittee. If you are interested in getting involved or have any questions, please contact us!
To Join:
  • Come to a meeting!
  • Check out our Facebook page for details on upcoming meetings
  • Email EECmail@coei.org
  • Call (574) 293-5070

Dates & Times:

  • 1st Monday of the month (December – August) at 6 PM
Want to make a lasting, positive impact at the EEC? Do you have professional skills/experience that you would like to share? We need help with special legacy projects that are great for volunteers or volunteer groups that have the skills/experience to make them happen! Below are the projects at the top of our to-do list.

If you have ideas for another project that you do not see below, we would love to hear from you! Please contact us at EECmail@coei.org or call (574) 293-5070 or stop by and visit us!

Boardwalk – design & construction

The boardwalk on our Christner Trail has deteriorated over the years and is no longer functional. This boardwalk connects the trail over a large pond that routinely floods and dries up over the year. We are looking to build a boardwalk that will accommodate these seasonal changes, be safe and accessible for our visitors, and stand the test of time and weathering.

Terrace Garden – multi-step project

The Terrace Garden is directly in front of the Visitor’s Cabin, and one of the first things that visitors see when they arrive. Unfortunately, the retaining walls have begun to rot, which makes the Terrace Garden unstable and unsafe for staff and volunteers to maintain. We need help with the following steps:

  • Removing the rocks which were stacked against the wall for aesthetic purposes
  • Replacing the rotted wooden boards in the retaining walls
  • Stabilizing the walls to ensure that they are safe and durable
  • Replacing the stones

Frequently Asked Questions

My company is looking for a volunteer day/project; do you have something that a group of us could do together?

Absolutely! Some of our completed projects, such as the observation deck pictured above, have been created on company volunteer days. We are happy to schedule time outside of our normal operation hours to support these projects. Please get in touch with our staff (EECmail@coei.org or (574) 293-5070) to discuss your interests and set up a schedule.

I need to complete a project for Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts; can I do this at the EEC?

Absolutely! Projects such as our amphitheater and the turtle habitat pictured above have been completed by Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts over the years. We would love to work with you! Please get in touch with our staff (EECmail@coei.org or (574) 293-5070) to discuss your interests and potential projects.

Is there any recognition for groups or individuals who help with these projects?

Yes! Groups and individuals are welcome to install plaques on their projects to commemorate their hard work and dedication for years to come.

Our partnerships and major projects are highlighted in our annual report and on our Facebook page — we love to brag about the support from our communities and share success stories of EEC projects!

Also, all volunteers are invited to our annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner, where we recognize the support of the community and our breakout volunteers with free food, fun games, and even some fun gifts/prizes!

Can I Borrow Tools?

Yes! If we have the tools you need available, you are very welcome to use them on these projects. However, we can only provide access to our volunteer tool shed during staff hours (M-F 8 AM – 5 PM; additional staff hours can be scheduled upon request for specialty projects).

Year-round (mostly April – October)

Love gardening? Help us support our pollinator populations and beautify the site by adopting one of our gardens!

What Gardens Can I Adopt?

We have a variety of gardens available for adoption: rain gardens, a pollinator garden, herb garden, and more!

What Do Garden Adopters Do?

Garden Adopters take care of their adopted gardens(s) throughout the year by making sure that the areas are weeded, watered, and planted. They tend their garden(s) as needed during the winter (Nov-Mar) and water and weed once every week in the summer (Apr-Oct).

Who Can Adopt A Garden?

This program is great for individuals and groups–big and small! Work is outside; tools, compost, and seeds can be provided during staff hours (M-F 8 AM – 5 PM). You must be 18 years or older to adopt a garden; individuals younger than 18 must adopt with a parent/guardian.

Training is required for this program. Many of our gardens available for adoption have special needs–we need to make sure that all maintenance is supporting the native plant life and only removing invasive species.

When do Do Garden Adopters work?

Because this program requires training, Garden Adopters will need to schedule work days with EEC staff. Our office hours are M-F 8 AM – 5 PM; however, scheduling outside of office hours is possible. Please contact EEC staff for details (eecmail@coei.org or (574) 293-5070).

After training has been completed, Garden Adopters may set up their own, independent schedule! We know that our Garden Adopters have busy schedules and it is hard to make it out to the EEC during business hours (M-F 8 AM – 5 PM). Volunteers are required to send in a reporting form at the end of the month to let us know when you have been out to the garden and share any notes that you have.

Can I Borrow Tools?

Yes! If you would like to borrow shears, shovels, or gloves, or if you would like to compost or mulch, you are very welcome to. However, we can only provide access to our volunteer tool shed during staff hours (M-F 8 AM – 5 PM; some Saturdays according to scheduled programming).

Is Any Training Provided?

Yes! Training is required for this program to make sure that volunteers are comfortable with and knowledgeable about proper maintenance procedures. Training will go over plant ID, invasive species removal, pollinators and/or stormwater. If you are interested in learning more while you volunteer, please reach out to EECmail@coei.org or (574) 293-5070.

Deadline:       

Please submit your completed applications by March. Completed applications and volunteer waivers can be submitted via email to EECmail@coei.org, or in person. The Elkhart Environmental Center is located at 1717 E Lusher Ave in Elkhart. Please call (574) 293-5070 for any questions.

Year-round (mostly April – October)

Grow your own food and flowers! Adopt up to 5 plots in the EEC Learning Garden and grow your own fruits, veggies, and flowers to take home and enjoy. Thanks to Church Community Service’s Seed to Feed Program, we are able to supply a wide variety of seeds for plot adopters!

What Do Plot Adopters Do?

Plot Adopters take care of their adopted plots(s) throughout the year by making sure that the plots are weeded, watered, and planted. They tend their plots as needed during the winter (Nov-Mar) and water and weed once every 2 weeks in the summer (Apr-Oct).

Who Can Adopt A Plot?

This program is great for individuals and families/small groups! Work is outside; tools, compost, and seeds can be provided during staff hours (M-F 8 AM – 5 PM). You must be 18 years or older to adopt a plot; individuals younger than 18 must adopt with a parent/guardian.

When do Do Plot Adopters work?

The short answer: whenever! We know that our Plot Adopters have busy schedules and it is hard to make it out to the EEC during business hours (M-F 8 AM – 5 PM). Because most of the garden work can be done independently, volunteers are welcome to stop by whenever is convenient for their schedule between our trail hours (sunrise-dusk). Volunteers are required to send in a reporting form at the end of the month to let us know when you have been out to the garden and share any notes that you have.

Can I Borrow Tools?

Yes! If you would like to borrow shears, shovels, or gloves, or if you would like to compost or mulch, you are very welcome to. However, we can only provide access to our volunteer tool shed during staff hours (M-F 8 AM – 5 PM; some Saturdays according to scheduled programming).

Is Any Training Provided?

Yes! You can learn about plant ID, gardening, compost, and more through volunteering with Adopt-a-Plot. However, because this activity is so independent, training is only provided upon request. If you are interested in learning more while you volunteer, please reach out to EECmail@coei.org or (574) 293-5070.

Deadline:       

Please submit your completed applications by January 31. Completed applications and volunteer waivers can be submitted via email to EECmail@coei.org, or in person. The Elkhart Environmental Center is located at 1717 E Lusher Ave in Elkhart. Please call (574) 293-5070 for any questions.

Year-round

Enjoy walking our trails? Adopt one! Help us keep trails in good condition for visitors and wildlife by working with staff, removing litter, and spreading woodchips.

What Do Trail Adopters Do?

Trail Adopters take care of their adopted trail(s) throughout the year by making sure that the trails are clean, safe, and in good condition. They walk their trail(s) once a month during the winter (Nov-Mar) and once every 2 weeks in the summer (Apr-Oct). They pick up any litter and report conditions to EEC staff.

Who Can Adopt A Trail?

This program is great for individuals and groups, small and large! Work is outside, tools can be provided during staff hours (M-F 8 AM – 5 PM). You must be 18 years or older to adopt a trail; individuals younger than 18 must adopt with a parent/guardian.

When Do Trail Adopters Work?

The short answer: whenever! We know that our Trail Adopters have busy schedules and it is hard to make it out to the EEC during business hours (M-F 8 AM – 5 PM). Because most of the trail work can be done without tools, volunteers are welcome to stop by whenever is convenient for their schedule between our trail hours (dawn-dusk). Volunteers are required to send in a reporting form at the end of the month to let us know when you have been out to the trails and share any notes that you have.

Can I Borrow Tools?

Yes! If you would like to borrow a trash-picker or some shears to trim back branches that are growing over the trail, you are very welcome to. However, we can only provide access to our volunteer tool shed during staff hours (M-F 8 AM – 5 PM; some Saturdays according to scheduled programming).

Is Any Training Provided?

Yes! You can learn about plant ID, invasive species, environmental management, and more through volunteering with Adopt-A-Trail. However, because this activity is so independent, training is only provided upon request. If you are interested in learning more while you volunteer, please reach out to EECmail@coei.org or (574) 293-5070.

Deadline:       

Please submit your completed applications by January 31 (unless trails are still available for adoption). Completed applications and volunteer waivers can be submitted via email to EECmail@coei.org, or in person. The Elkhart Environmental Center is located at 1717 E Lusher Ave in Elkhart. Please call (574) 293-5070 for any questions.

More information coming soon!

Curious about volunteering with the Elkhart Environmental Center (EEC)? Looking for ways you can support the community that also works with your schedule? Look no further! Check out our ongoing volunteer needs below. Each section below has opportunities throughout the year; click the icons below for more details.

If you are interested in bringing a group out to the EEC for a volunteer day, we are happy to schedule this outside of our regular business hours (M-F 8 AM – 5 PM). Please contact EEC staff at EECmail@coei.org or (574) 293-5070. Please see the links below for details about our standard volunteer activities.

Learning Garden

Mostly April – October

Our Learning Garden serves as a community food garden and an educational spot for some of our summer programming. While Plot Adopters take care of the individual garden plots, other volunteers help us upkeep the common areas such as the center and dividing paths. Volunteers weed and mulch the common areas, which keeps the Learning Garden in excellent condition not only for our Plot Adopters but also our students!

Invasive Species Removal

Year-Round

Invasive species threaten the health of ecosystems in our environment. Helps us keep our environment healthy by removing non-native, invasive species such as honeysuckle, Japanese hops, oriental bittersweet, garlic mustard, multiflora rose, and others from our forest, wetlands, and prairies. Volunteers and volunteer groups help us work towards keeping our variety of ecosystems healthy for wildlife and visitors!

Trail Management

Mostly March – November

You don’t have to adopt our trails to improve or maintain them! Help us and our trail adopters keep trails in good condition for visitors and wildlife. While Trail Adopters monitor and spot-check the trails on a regular basis, we still need help with bigger maintenance needs such as mulching and weeding. Volunteers and volunteer groups help keep the trails accessible and in good condition for visitors and wildlife all year round!

Volunteer
Opportunities

We offer a variety of volunteer opportunities that are suitable for businesses, organizations, groups, and individuals. As part of our environmental education goals, all of our volunteer opportunities are also offered with optional training. Interested in learning about a plant or tree ID, environmental management, event planning, or more? Volunteer!

Looking for something specific? View the categories below to discover which one best fits you.

Please call (574) 293-5070 or email EECmail@coei.org with any questions.

You can also find details about and sign up for upcoming volunteer opportunities on our SignUp page.

All volunteers are required to fill out and return a volunteer waiver. Copies are also available at the Visitor’s Cabin.

Waivers for volunteers under the age of 18 must be signed by a parent/guardian. Volunteers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent/guardian while volunteering.

We offer volunteer opportunities throughout the year. Below are the upcoming, scheduled volunteer events and activities–please check them out and let us know if you are interested in helping (EECmail@coei.org or (574) 293-5070.

If you would like to schedule your own volunteer event, we can do that, too! Please contact EEC staff at EECmail@coei.org or (574) 293-5070 to schedule your own group volunteer day.

Envirofest

UPDATE: Meetings will now be held virtually
This is our biggest event of the year AND the biggest EnviroFest yet: help us plan our 25th EnviroFest for 2021! The goal of EnviroFest is to engage and educate the community on environmental and sustainable initiatives and we want this event to go above and beyond for the 25th anniversary.
Are you looking to be more engaged in environmental initiatives in the community? Do you have great ideas that you are excited to share and make happen? Join our EnviroFest Planning Committee!
EnviroFest Committee members help us develop the Raffle & Silent Auction, the theme and entertainment for the Kids’ Area, educational speakers, zero waste initiatives, and more. Join us for snacks and a monthly meeting on how to make this community event the best it has ever been!
Veteran volunteers and EEC staff are looking for new volunteers with new ideas and enthusiasm to support the event and even take ownership of their own subcommittee. If you are interested in getting involved or have any questions, please contact us!
To Join:
  • Come to a meeting!
  • Check out our Facebook page for details on upcoming meetings
  • Email EECmail@coei.org
  • Call (574) 293-5070

Dates & Times:

  • 1st Monday of the month (December – August) at 6 PM
Want to make a lasting, positive impact at the EEC? Do you have professional skills/experience that you would like to share? We need help with special legacy projects that are great for volunteers or volunteer groups that have the skills/experience to make them happen! Below are the projects at the top of our to-do list.

If you have ideas for another project that you do not see below, we would love to hear from you! Please contact us at EECmail@coei.org or call (574) 293-5070 or stop by and visit us!

Boardwalk – design & construction

The boardwalk on our Christner Trail has deteriorated over the years and is no longer functional. This boardwalk connects the trail over a large pond that routinely floods and dries up over the year. We are looking to build a boardwalk that will accommodate these seasonal changes, be safe and accessible for our visitors, and stand the test of time and weathering.

Terrace Garden – multi-step project

The Terrace Garden is directly in front of the Visitor’s Cabin, and one of the first things that visitors see when they arrive. Unfortunately, the retaining walls have begun to rot, which makes the Terrace Garden unstable and unsafe for staff and volunteers to maintain. We need help with the following steps:

  • Removing the rocks which were stacked against the wall for aesthetic purposes
  • Replacing the rotted wooden boards in the retaining walls
  • Stabilizing the walls to ensure that they are safe and durable
  • Replacing the stones

Frequently Asked Questions

My company is looking for a volunteer day/project; do you have something that a group of us could do together?

Absolutely! Some of our completed projects, such as the observation deck pictured above, have been created on company volunteer days. We are happy to schedule time outside of our normal operation hours to support these projects. Please get in touch with our staff (EECmail@coei.org or (574) 293-5070) to discuss your interests and set up a schedule.

I need to complete a project for Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts; can I do this at the EEC?

Absolutely! Projects such as our amphitheater and the turtle habitat pictured above have been completed by Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts over the years. We would love to work with you! Please get in touch with our staff (EECmail@coei.org or (574) 293-5070) to discuss your interests and potential projects.

Is there any recognition for groups or individuals who help with these projects?

Yes! Groups and individuals are welcome to install plaques on their projects to commemorate their hard work and dedication for years to come.

Our partnerships and major projects are highlighted in our annual report and on our Facebook page — we love to brag about the support from our communities and share success stories of EEC projects!

Also, all volunteers are invited to our annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner, where we recognize the support of the community and our breakout volunteers with free food, fun games, and even some fun gifts/prizes!

Can I Borrow Tools?

Yes! If we have the tools you need available, you are very welcome to use them on these projects. However, we can only provide access to our volunteer tool shed during staff hours (M-F 8 AM – 5 PM; additional staff hours can be scheduled upon request for specialty projects).

Year-round (mostly April – October)

Love gardening? Help us support our pollinator populations and beautify the site by adopting one of our gardens!

What Gardens Can I Adopt?

We have a variety of gardens available for adoption: rain gardens, a pollinator garden, herb garden, and more!

What Do Garden Adopters Do?

Garden Adopters take care of their adopted gardens(s) throughout the year by making sure that the areas are weeded, watered, and planted. They tend their garden(s) as needed during the winter (Nov-Mar) and water and weed once every week in the summer (Apr-Oct).

Who Can Adopt A Garden?

This program is great for individuals and groups–big and small! Work is outside; tools, compost, and seeds can be provided during staff hours (M-F 8 AM – 5 PM). You must be 18 years or older to adopt a garden; individuals younger than 18 must adopt with a parent/guardian.

Training is required for this program. Many of our gardens available for adoption have special needs–we need to make sure that all maintenance is supporting the native plant life and only removing invasive species.

When do Do Garden Adopters work?

Because this program requires training, Garden Adopters will need to schedule work days with EEC staff. Our office hours are M-F 8 AM – 5 PM; however, scheduling outside of office hours is possible. Please contact EEC staff for details (eecmail@coei.org or (574) 293-5070).

After training has been completed, Garden Adopters may set up their own, independent schedule! We know that our Garden Adopters have busy schedules and it is hard to make it out to the EEC during business hours (M-F 8 AM – 5 PM). Volunteers are required to send in a reporting form at the end of the month to let us know when you have been out to the garden and share any notes that you have.

Can I Borrow Tools?

Yes! If you would like to borrow shears, shovels, or gloves, or if you would like to compost or mulch, you are very welcome to. However, we can only provide access to our volunteer tool shed during staff hours (M-F 8 AM – 5 PM; some Saturdays according to scheduled programming).

Is Any Training Provided?

Yes! Training is required for this program to make sure that volunteers are comfortable with and knowledgeable about proper maintenance procedures. Training will go over plant ID, invasive species removal, pollinators and/or stormwater. If you are interested in learning more while you volunteer, please reach out to EECmail@coei.org or (574) 293-5070.

Deadline:       

Please submit your completed applications by March. Completed applications and volunteer waivers can be submitted via email to EECmail@coei.org, or in person. The Elkhart Environmental Center is located at 1717 E Lusher Ave in Elkhart. Please call (574) 293-5070 for any questions.

Year-round (mostly April – October)

Grow your own food and flowers! Adopt up to 5 plots in the EEC Learning Garden and grow your own fruits, veggies, and flowers to take home and enjoy. Thanks to Church Community Service’s Seed to Feed Program, we are able to supply a wide variety of seeds for plot adopters!

What Do Plot Adopters Do?

Plot Adopters take care of their adopted plots(s) throughout the year by making sure that the plots are weeded, watered, and planted. They tend their plots as needed during the winter (Nov-Mar) and water and weed once every 2 weeks in the summer (Apr-Oct).

Who Can Adopt A Plot?

This program is great for individuals and families/small groups! Work is outside; tools, compost, and seeds can be provided during staff hours (M-F 8 AM – 5 PM). You must be 18 years or older to adopt a plot; individuals younger than 18 must adopt with a parent/guardian.

When do Do Plot Adopters work?

The short answer: whenever! We know that our Plot Adopters have busy schedules and it is hard to make it out to the EEC during business hours (M-F 8 AM – 5 PM). Because most of the garden work can be done independently, volunteers are welcome to stop by whenever is convenient for their schedule between our trail hours (sunrise-dusk). Volunteers are required to send in a reporting form at the end of the month to let us know when you have been out to the garden and share any notes that you have.

Can I Borrow Tools?

Yes! If you would like to borrow shears, shovels, or gloves, or if you would like to compost or mulch, you are very welcome to. However, we can only provide access to our volunteer tool shed during staff hours (M-F 8 AM – 5 PM; some Saturdays according to scheduled programming).

Is Any Training Provided?

Yes! You can learn about plant ID, gardening, compost, and more through volunteering with Adopt-a-Plot. However, because this activity is so independent, training is only provided upon request. If you are interested in learning more while you volunteer, please reach out to EECmail@coei.org or (574) 293-5070.

Deadline:       

Please submit your completed applications by January 31. Completed applications and volunteer waivers can be submitted via email to EECmail@coei.org, or in person. The Elkhart Environmental Center is located at 1717 E Lusher Ave in Elkhart. Please call (574) 293-5070 for any questions.

Year-round

Enjoy walking our trails? Adopt one! Help us keep trails in good condition for visitors and wildlife by working with staff, removing litter, and spreading woodchips.

What Do Trail Adopters Do?

Trail Adopters take care of their adopted trail(s) throughout the year by making sure that the trails are clean, safe, and in good condition. They walk their trail(s) once a month during the winter (Nov-Mar) and once every 2 weeks in the summer (Apr-Oct). They pick up any litter and report conditions to EEC staff.

Who Can Adopt A Trail?

This program is great for individuals and groups, small and large! Work is outside, tools can be provided during staff hours (M-F 8 AM – 5 PM). You must be 18 years or older to adopt a trail; individuals younger than 18 must adopt with a parent/guardian.

When Do Trail Adopters Work?

The short answer: whenever! We know that our Trail Adopters have busy schedules and it is hard to make it out to the EEC during business hours (M-F 8 AM – 5 PM). Because most of the trail work can be done without tools, volunteers are welcome to stop by whenever is convenient for their schedule between our trail hours (dawn-dusk). Volunteers are required to send in a reporting form at the end of the month to let us know when you have been out to the trails and share any notes that you have.

Can I Borrow Tools?

Yes! If you would like to borrow a trash-picker or some shears to trim back branches that are growing over the trail, you are very welcome to. However, we can only provide access to our volunteer tool shed during staff hours (M-F 8 AM – 5 PM; some Saturdays according to scheduled programming).

Is Any Training Provided?

Yes! You can learn about plant ID, invasive species, environmental management, and more through volunteering with Adopt-A-Trail. However, because this activity is so independent, training is only provided upon request. If you are interested in learning more while you volunteer, please reach out to EECmail@coei.org or (574) 293-5070.

Deadline:       

Please submit your completed applications by January 31 (unless trails are still available for adoption). Completed applications and volunteer waivers can be submitted via email to EECmail@coei.org, or in person. The Elkhart Environmental Center is located at 1717 E Lusher Ave in Elkhart. Please call (574) 293-5070 for any questions.

More information coming soon!

Curious about volunteering with the Elkhart Environmental Center (EEC)? Looking for ways you can support the community that also works with your schedule? Look no further! Check out our ongoing volunteer needs below. Each section below has opportunities throughout the year; click the icons below for more details.

If you are interested in bringing a group out to the EEC for a volunteer day, we are happy to schedule this outside of our regular business hours (M-F 8 AM – 5 PM). Please contact EEC staff at EECmail@coei.org or (574) 293-5070. Please see the links below for details about our standard volunteer activities.

Learning Garden

Mostly April – October

Our Learning Garden serves as a community food garden and an educational spot for some of our summer programming. While Plot Adopters take care of the individual garden plots, other volunteers help us upkeep the common areas such as the center and dividing paths. Volunteers weed and mulch the common areas, which keeps the Learning Garden in excellent condition not only for our Plot Adopters but also our students!

Invasive Species Removal

Year-Round

Invasive species threaten the health of ecosystems in our environment. Helps us keep our environment healthy by removing non-native, invasive species such as honeysuckle, Japanese hops, oriental bittersweet, garlic mustard, multiflora rose, and others from our forest, wetlands, and prairies. Volunteers and volunteer groups help us work towards keeping our variety of ecosystems healthy for wildlife and visitors!

Trail Management

Mostly March – November

You don’t have to adopt our trails to improve or maintain them! Help us and our trail adopters keep trails in good condition for visitors and wildlife. While Trail Adopters monitor and spot-check the trails on a regular basis, we still need help with bigger maintenance needs such as mulching and weeding. Volunteers and volunteer groups help keep the trails accessible and in good condition for visitors and wildlife all year round!