About the Nature Center
The Nature Center was built by BVAS in 1987, in partnership with the City of Oceanside and with support funding from the state’s environmental license plate program. The center is located at 2202 South Coast Hwy, adjacent to the 220-acre Buena Vista Lagoon Ecological Reserve. The 3,500 square foot facility houses a series of interpretive displays featuring local wildlife, and has a natural history library, small gift shop, and meeting rooms. The grounds include a native plant demonstration garden and a short interpretive trail. In 2014, BVAS completed a $280,000 renovation to the Nature Center, adding a second story view deck.
What We Do
A primary focus for BVAS is our nature education program for children. Over 3,000 school children participate in class outings to the Nature Center each year. Our volunteer Nature Guides offer a series of special interactive programs on different nature topics, and lead students on nature discovery walks along the trails. Our Nature Storytime sessions for pre-school children is a popular monthly attraction.
We also offer nature educational experiences for the community, including regular birding field trips throughout the county, natural history classes, a native plant club, and special nature programs and lectures, generally at no charge to the public. We have monthly programs for the community on topics dealing with the native plants and animals of our region. We offer nature-themed special events each year, including the BVAS Birdhouse Auction, Endangered Species Day Open House, and Nature Summer Camp. Our Migrating Birders program arranges guided birding trips to distant locales. We publish a newsletter for our membership and maintain an informative website. Our extensive library of nature literature, slides, and video tapes are available to members, students, and the general public.
History of the Nature Center
Cora Wilson's Dream
Buena Vista Audubon Society’s Nature Center is a part – an outstanding part! – of the decades-long effort to protect Buena Vista Lagoon as a wetland wildlife sanctuary. The effort to conserve the lagoon dates back at least to the 1930s, when the Buena Vista Lagoon Association – now the Buena Vista Lagoon Foundation – first persuaded the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to zone 100 acres of the lagoon as a wildlife refuge. Since those early years the lagoon has at times drained and dried up, flooded and silted up. A weir was built across the mouth of the lagoon raising the lagoon level above high tide and transforming the lagoon into a calm, shallow freshwater lake, increasingly choked with silt and tules. About one-fourth of the lagoon was lost in the late 1960s to Plaza Camino Real Shopping Center. Yet much more might have been lost: marinas, amusement parks, trailer parks and housing developments have all been proposed for the lagoon – and prevented. Buena Vista Lagoon, a State Ecological Reserve managed by California Department of Fish and Game since 1968, continues to welcome numerous migratory waterfowl and shorebirds each year. Over 200 species of birds have been recorded on and around the lagoon.
Many of the same individuals who were active in the conservation efforts of the Buena Vista Lagoon Association helped found Buena Vista Audubon Society (BVAS) in 1951. Ironically, it was development alongside the lagoon that helped pave the way for the building of the Nature Center. When the Sandpiper Cove condos were proposed in the 1980s, the builder offered as mitigation land next to the lagoon. That offer set the stage for the realization of a BVAS dream long deferred.
Cora Wilson, a retired Los Angeles schoolteacher, moved to Carlsbad in 1954, and immediately became active in BVAS. It was her dream, one she pressed for years and years, that BVAS would build an interpretive center where children could be educated about nature. Cora’s cause was joined by David Rorick, founding member of BVAS, businessman and lifelong Oceanside resident. His wide circle of connections enabled him to be extremely effective in promoting and realizing Cora’s dream of a nature center.
Dave enlisted the help of Oceanside city officials, State Assemblyman Robert Frazee, and State Senator Bill Craven. The lot on which the Nature Center stands was deeded to the City, which leases it to BVAS for $1.00 a year. The City of Oceanside, with the active assistance of our representatives in Sacramento, obtained $265,000 from the California Vanity License Plate Fund, established to promote environmental protection. BVAS undertook the design and engineering work necessary to create a buildable site. Largely as a result of Dave Rorick’s efforts, $75,000 was raised from members, friends and supporters of BVAS. Bank of America provided a bridging loan of $50,000 to keep the construction going until all the state money came in to finish the job, which cost a total of $325,000.
The Nature Center held a Grand Opening to welcome the public on September 24, 1988. 150 visitors enjoyed the displays, admired the native plant landscaping along the shoreline trail installed by longtime BVAS activist Paul Grigsby, but the Grand Opening was less than a “roaring success”: a mountain lion accompanying the founder of Wildlife Rescue regarded “all the goings-on with a steady stare and occasional low growl”, then stretched out on the floor of the brand new nature center “to catch a few zzzs”.
Over the years, the Nature Center underwent several small remodeling projects, including roofing, painting, and carpeting upgrades funded by Prop 12, and administered by the city. In 2014, thanks to a state grant under the Nature Education Facility Program of the 2006 Clean Water Bond Act, a major remodel transformed the Nature Center with a new upstairs viewing deck. In addition, in 2015, a grant from the City of Carlsbad allowed BVAS to repaint the nature center and upgrade the outdoor information kiosk.
With over 2,000 members and our dedicated volunteers, we are now poised to enhance Cora Wilson’s dream: a center superbly equipped to interpret nature in a local, natural setting to thousands of schoolchildren. Currently, over 3,000 children a year are introduced to nature by BVAS nature guides. How much more they will be able to learn now!
- Dennis Huckabay
Conservation Through Education, Advocacy, Land Management, and Monitoring
Buena Vista Audubon
PO Box 480
Oceanside, CA 92049
Tuesday 10 am-4 pm
Wednesday 10 am-4 pm
Thursday 10 am-4 pm
Friday 10 am-4 pm
Saturday 10 am-4 pm