June 22, 2017

It Takes a Village: Hartley Outdoor Education Center

The sounds. The woods. The wildlife. A simple mention of the name “Hartley” brings a smile to most faces with the memories of a first trip to the wooded outdoor education center located in St. Charles during elementary school.


“If you were a student in Saginaw County, coming to Hartley was an iconic part of your school experiences,” said Eric Rutherford, director, Hartley Outdoor Education Center.


Since 1975, Hartley Outdoor Education Center has become a true tradition and “rite of passage” for over 300,000 students from across the Great Lakes Bay Region and beyond. Each year, interest in using the facilities from schools here locally and from as far away as Farmington Hills continues to grow. Unfortunately, due to the space constraints in the dormitories, some schools must split their classes into two groups or not attend at all.


The dormitories were constructed in 1975 and have seen only basic maintenance over that time. The total capacity was 80 bunks (40 per side) between the boy’s and girl’s dorms. In order to accommodate the growing demand for space, an expansion of the dorms was needed.


Last year, a $15,000 grant was awarded to assist with an expansion and renovation of the dorms, adding 20 bunks to each side. All of the original wooden bunks were replaced with new metal-framed bunks. New mattresses and carpet were added as well as energy-efficient lighting, new windows, new laundry facilities, and safety and security systems. 


“Receiving support from Saginaw Community Foundation was huge,” said Rutherford. “Whenever you have a big project to do, working with the community foundation is the first step. This grant will live on for many years and impact every student that visits Hartley. It’s the best return on investment you can ever have.”