NTD 2015 National Trails Day Volunteers

The Friends of Hemlock Bluffs is a volunteer based non-profit, support organization created to further the mission, environmental education programs and facilities at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve. Members provide financial support, volunteer assistance and aid in promoting the nature preserve and nature center as valuable community resources.



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Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve

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Town of Cary Links

2015 National Trails Day

Saturday, June 6, 2015 there were 80 volunteers that joined the staff of Hemlock Bluffs for the annual National Trails Day volunteer workday.  The morning began with the opening of the Children’s Nature Trail at Hemlock Bluffs.  The trail donors, REI and The Jandy Ammons Foundation, were in attendance.  Along with Tullie Johnson, Past President of the Friends, Gail Renegar, a lifetime Friends member and donator of the trail’s balance beam, and  Susanne Portanova, our local artist who provided bird silhouettes in the nature trail area, were also in attendance. Following the ribbon cutting ceremony, volunteers mulched Chestnut Oak Loop Trail, re-graveled the stairs on Swift Creek Loop Trail, decorated new stepping stones, and refreshed the Recycle and Children’s gardens.  A special thanks to REI for their continued support of the National Trails Day workday at Hemlock Bluffs and to the Friends of Hemlock Bluffs for providing lunch for the volunteers following the workday.


Upcoming Volunteer Opportunities at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve

Assist staff in ongoing trail and preserve projects. Bring work gloves and wheel barrows if you have them. You can pre-register through the Town of Cary. Call (919) 387-5980 or visit




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Place Your Order for a Custom Engraved Paver!

Memories and Messages Saved in Stone

With a $35 donation, you can save those special memories, messages or dedications to that special person in stone. This personalized concrete paver will be a lasting symbol for years of enjoyment. Engraved Pavers make a unique gift idea. Order your paver today!

Paver Dedication

Dedication scheduled to occur on Sunday, November 22, 2015.  Invitation to follow with more details, so save the date!


Friends Receive Grant from Jandy Ammons Foundation

The Friends of Hemlock Bluffs received a $9,000 grant from the Jandy Ammons Foundation in the fall of 2014.  The funding was provided for educational elements to supplement the initial phases of the Children’s Nature Trail which was under development at Hemlock Bluffs. The Jandy Ammons Foundation which funds local greenway, park and greenspace projects, came on board to assist with funding for additional trail features to enhance the educational nature of the trail.  Thus far, the money has been used for the large-scale turtle stepper elements and the hand-crafted ceramic bird silhouettes.  Plans for the rest of the funds include interpretive signs, which will encourage parents to engage their children in nature discovery while on the trail. Below are Jan and Andy Ammons from the Jandy Ammons Foundation on National Trails Day at the dedication of the Children’s Nature Trail on June 6th, 2015.

Jan and Andy Ammons


L WhiteNature Center Supervisor Retires

The Friends of Hemlock Bluffs would like to thank Laura White for her 22 years of service and dedication to the Stevens Nature Center at the Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve.  She put her heart and soul into the well maintained facilities, excellent environmental education programs and unique natural resources of the preserve.

She leaves a legacy behind, but does not leave the work.  She will continue to share her knowledge, skills and experience as a volunteer now at the nature center.  She will be working in the gardens, lending a hand as needed, promoting the environmental education opportunities when available and joining the Friends of Hemlock Bluff’s Board.

The Friends look forward to working with Laura in her new role on the board.


Past Board MembersThank You to our Past Board Members!

The Friends would like to thank Joanne Wainwright and Joyce Wester for their many years of service on the board of the Friends of Hemlock Bluffs.  These two ladies helped to support the educational efforts for the Stevens Nature Center through the scholarship program and by organizing and assisting with the food and preparations for countless number of volunteer workdays at the preserve.  You both will be missed on the board, but we are grateful that you will continue to help out when needed for future projects! Friends for life!


Need a Gift Idea for anytime of the Year?

Need any last minute gift ideas or need to get something for someone that has everything???  Look no further! 

All you have to do is go online to and search Friends of Hemlock Bluffs or click on the link below and you will be taken to the "Wish List" for the Stevens Nature Center!  Purchase an item to donate on behalf of a friend, family or co-worker!  This is a wonderful opportunity to give a gift in so many ways! 

All purchases will be used to enhance the environmental education opportunities at the Stevens Nature Center!

Check out the needs of the nature center and donate today:

2015 Friends of Hemlock Bluffs Wish List


Thank you to the Eagle Scouts

Eagle Scout Candidate, Kenny Derek worked with his troop, family and friends to build and install the attractive arbor which designates the entrance to the Children's Nature Trail at Hemlock Bluffs. It makes a bold statement and clearly indicates the entryway to the trail. Thanks for all your work, Kenny!

Kenny (eagle scout) Kenny Derek

Eagle Scout, Alex Lee, his troop, family and friends constructed and installed the handmade log slab benches nestled in the Children's Nature Trail area. The benches are a beautiful addition to the trail. Thank you, Alex!

Alex (eagle scout) Alex Lee

Eagle Scout candidate, Zack Merim, his troop, family and friends recently installed a new fence around the backyard wildlife garden at the Stevens Nature Center. This updated and attractive fence makes the area safe and beautiful. Thanks Zack!

Zack (eagle scout) Zack Merim



Donation of iPad

The Friends of Hemlock Bluffs have provided the preserve staff with an iPad to use in their many educational programs; the iPad is equipped with a data plan, and is backed with Geek Squad Protection. We purchased a LifeProof case for the staff to put the iPad in so that they are able to use the device at the creek and throughout the preserve in order to identify and catalog the many species of plants, trees, insects and animals the participants encounter in the field. A subscription to Amazon Prime was also purchased to allow staff access to a multitude of free science films and documentaries that can be shown to program participants.



For the latest news about the Friends of Hemlock Bluffs, check out our 2015 Friends Newsletter.

For previous news, check out last year's Friends Newsletter.

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Who We Are


In the 1970's, a group was formed to protect the land known today as Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve. With lots of determination and hard work, the Hemlock Bluffs Preservation Society was successful in their plan to protect the nature preserve under the jurisdiction of the State of North Carolina. In 1995, the Cary Women's Club provided infrastructure and officers to create a support organization for the Preserve and the Stevens Nature Center. The founding members of the Hemlock Bluffs Preservation Society approached the Cary Women's Club and suggested that they use the original group name and articles of incorporation, since the group had never officially disbanded. With the consistent support of the Cary Women's Club, the Hemlock Bluffs Preservation Society funded exhibits, resources and equipment, and support for the organization grew.

In 2001, the board adopted the name "Friends of Hemlock Bluffs" to emphasize the group's mission of supporting the Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve and its environmental education efforts.

Today, the Friends' support efforts have expanded to include many exciting programs and activities. Below you can see the "What We Do" section for more details on these, or go to "Get Involved" to find out how you can help support the Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve.


President: Christina Sorensen Hester
President-Elect: Jim Mason
Past President: Tullie Johnson
Treasurer: Jim Mason
Secretary: Laura White

Other Board Members and Committees

Fundraising Committee: Jim Mason (Chair), Tullie Johnson, Erin Nicholson, Laura White

Membership Committee: Christina Hester (Chair), Rob Ferrall, Rob Trickel

Social, Scholarship and Paver Committee: Erin Nicholson

Cary Teen Council Representatives: Ramya Kolagani and Sindhura Maale

Nature Center Staff Representatives: Mark Johns, Operations and Program Supervisor and Morgan Bosse, Program Specialist

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What We Do


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The Friends provide financial and volunteer support to Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve and the Stevens Nature Center. Some of our past accomplishments include:

  • Funding of the "hands-on" educational exhibits in the Stevens Nature Center exhibit hall.
  • Funding of resources and equipment for environmental education programs.
  • Sponsorship of special events and conservation projects. Funded garden art pieces created by Jeffrey Hurr of Iron Innovations, Inc. to beautify the nature center courtyard.


On the Right Path to Board Development: The Friend’s Board Creates a Strategic Plan, 2013

Your Friends of Hemlock Bluffs Board of Directors spent the winter working to create a Strategic Plan for the future of the Friends. Christina Hester applied for the Every Day 2012 Grant from the National Environmental Education Foundation for the purpose of developing a strategic plan for the Friends of Hemlock Bluffs, and was awarded $4,980 to pay for a consultant to facilitate the sessions and serve as consultant. After a thorough search, the Board selected the True North Consulting Company, headed by David Halley.

The all-day sessions were well-attended by Board members and the managing Staff of Hemlock Bluffs: Tullie Johnson, Christina Hester, Meg Ketron, Joanne Wainwright, Joyce Wester, Jim Mason, Laura White and Mark Johns. The meetings were held at the Middle Creek Community Center in January, the Cary Senior Center in February, and at the Stevens Nature Preserve in March.

Consultant David Halley used standard business processes and tools to compile our vision for the organization. We started with a broad array of possibilities and narrowed them down to a practical plan. Many topics were discussed exhaustively, including: needs of the Preserve, the role of the Friends, increasing membership, fundraising, grant-writing, scholarship provisioning, amending bylaws, and board development. The resultant decision were always determined by a consensus vote, and we were all satisfied with the practical results.

We had several choices as to the direction of the group and all were widely discussed. At the conclusion of the exercise, it was unanimously agreed that our Friends of Hemlock Bluffs Board of Directors requires a more robust number of personnel in order to continue effectively. For the many exciting activities ahead, we need more people. Our primary focus for the coming year will be to develop the Board by adding active and diverse Board Members. By doing so, we believe that we will re-invigorate the organization, and become more viable.

The first order of business of our Strategic Plan is to nominate a slate of potential new Board Members. We will approach them individually and for those who apply and accept, we will train them through an orientation class, and provide them with a “New Board Member Packet.” Our goal is to bring them up to speed quickly, so that they can contribute to the group very soon.

Our next goal in the Strategic Plan is to organize and build up our committee structure: Membership, Fundraising, Scholarship, Finance, and the like. Most of the “work” should be done by these committees, which will be led by Board Members, but will also include Friends members, advisors, and any one needed. Some committees may be short-lived and single-project focused; others, (such as Finance) will be standing committees.

After we have staffed and trained the Board, and after our committees are established, we can continue on with fundraising, providing scholarships, and supporting the Staff and activities of the Stevens Nature Center at the Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve. We could not have gotten through this importance process without the financial support from the NEEF and the Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc., who helps to fund these grant opportunities!

2015 FOHB Board
2015 Board of Directors


Welcomed Addition: Children’s Nature Trail

The Children's Nature Trail is the big fundraising project the Friends are assisting staff with this year.  Mark Johns, Operations Manager, has identified that he would like to focus on completing the educational and interpretive efforts in the Children's Nature Trail area. "The initial phase has been a huge success." says Johns, "We'd like to install the final elements in the Children's Nature Trail area to provide parents and children with an overall experience of nature discovery".  The Friends of Hemlock Bluffs are committed to help through promotion of the trail and engaging a variety of fundraising methods.

The Friends donated the funds for the equipment rental for the installation of the elements
on the Children’s Nature Trail.  On a snowy day in March, staff worked to use a forklift to move the log tunnel and mushroom steppers into place.  Then, holes were augered to set the elements into the ground.  The nature trail was dedicated as part of National Trails Day on June 6, 2015.  Bring the kids out and discover all the cool features along the trail!

Child Nature Trail 2015












On-Going Projects

Sale and installation of engraved pavers in the Courtyard. Complete your paver order form today!

Funding and selection of scholarship winners. More information on scholarships is available.


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Get Involved


There are many ways you can get involved with the Friends of Hemlock Bluffs. Click on the links below for more information about purchasing an engraved paver and volunteering.

Engraved Pavers

Grants in Action

Become a Member!

We're always happy to welcome the interest and participation of new members. Membership contributions are tax-deductible within legal limits, and renew each January. Your Friends of Hemlock Bluffs membership will provide the following benefits:

  • Enjoy the friendship and fun by participating in volunteer opportunities
  • Get involved with and/or generate ideas for projects and events
  • Receive our newsletter
  • Attend our Paver Dedications and other social events
  • FOHB members receive a 10% discount on nature programs.

Membership Options:

  • Senior Citizen - $10.00
  • Individual - $15.00
  • Family - $25.00
  • Patron - $50.00
  • Sustaining - $100.00
  • Benefactor - $500.00
  • Life Membership - $1,000.00

Register your membership by paying online through PayPal: (NEW!)

Membership Options
(Clicking on the button below takes you to the PayPal website.)

Alternatively, membership forms are available at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve or you can download a PDF version. Mail in form with membership donation to:

Friends of Hemlock Bluffs
PO Box 62 Cary, NC 27512-0062

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Contact Us

We'll be happy to answer your questions about our organization!

We are most easily reached via e-mail. One of our board members will respond to your message as soon as possible. Thank you!

Send inquiries about the Friends of Hemlock Bluffs to:

Please direct questions about Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, volunteering with your group and participating in the nature programs to


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Town of Cary Links

Follow the links below to official Town of Cary webpages:

Town of Cary Homepage

Town of Cary Internet Program Registration


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Friends of Hemlock Bluffs:  Walk…Listen…Observe…Photograph…Sketch…Commune…Discover…Hemlock Bluffs
Last updated: October 13, 2014