JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — The pandemic has uprooted nearly every aspect of daily life, but one local organization has preserved much of its traditional programming this fall.

In the first week of December alone, the Autrey Mill Nature Preserve & Heritage Center hosted a robust collection of events, including iterations of several long-running programs: Feeding Fridays, Sneak-A-Peek Saturday, Crafts from the Past, Home School Adventure, Sunday Socials and Explore With Me.

The Nature Preserve held its annual Fall Break camp last month, from Nov. 23-25. And ahead of its Winter Break camp from Dec. 28-30, it continues to welcome visitors to its grounds to walk the Nature Preserve’s trails and attend some of its long-running programs.

“I go up the driveway, and any cares or worries or stresses in life totally melt away, and you are transported back in time,” said Board of Directors Vice President Mary Jo Malowney. “You’re just in the most wonderful place.”

Five elementary school-aged children attended the Nature Preserve’s Fall Break camp last month — a reduced enrollment that helped prevent coronavirus spread, according to Operations Manager Lizen Hayes.

Each of the three camp days had a specific theme: Habitat Hunters, Crafts from the Past and Time Travelers. The camp provided a recreational opportunity for the kids, many spending most of their time at home staring at a screen.

The Nature Preserve’s spacious outdoor setting allowed campers to spend their time almost entirely outdoors, participating in social-distanced activities while wearing face coverings. Hayes said that the campers were on the younger end this year, mostly from 5 to 8 years old. The December seasonal camp will follow a similar format. 

Other programming at the Nature Preserve continues to flourish as well. In addition to regular visits and workshop attendance from community members, Hayes noted that rentals at the Program Barn have seen a slight increase, because the barn is a safe, partially outdoor space to hold events. And just over a week ago, Malowney finished taking an inventory of public display items in one of its Heritage Collections, the Green Store Collection.

“People come here because it’s a safe way for people to enjoy the outdoors and also have something to do,” Hayes said. “We have a lot of people walking the trails, visiting the animals and spending time outdoors at the preserve.”

The Autrey Mill Nature Preserve is at 9770 Autrey Mill Road, Johns Creek. Visit autreymill.org for more information or to sign up for programs.

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