Environmental Center manager promotes nature - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Environmental Center manager promotes nature

May 16th, 2018 development
Environmental Center manager promotes nature

By City of Chander, Contributor


Ariane Francis has an office and a job in one of the most beautiful locations in the city. She works as facility manager of the Environmental Education Center at Veterans Oasis Park.

The park is located on the northeast corner of Chandler Heights and Lindsay roads and includes 4.5 miles of trails and a 5-acre fishing lake.

Since opening in 2008, the park and EEC have received an excellent reception from the public for the variety of nature experiences and programs offered there. The lake, trails and wetlands are popular for fishing, hiking, bird watching and nighttime star gazing.

The EEC has classrooms, a nature discovery room, exhibit areas and a nature store. It offers a variety of classes year-round focused on nature and the environment.

Francis started with the city as a part-time recreation leader, providing lunchtime and after-school activities for children attending Santan Junior High. In 2006, she was promoted to a position supervising the programs at Santan, Willis and Andersen junior high schools.

A lateral move to Snedigar Sportsplex saw her providing classes for preschoolers and organizing events such as the annual Daddy-Daughter Valentine’s Day Dance and Family Easter Celebration. Another promotion sent her to Veterans Oasis Park and her current job managing the EEC.

“I have the best of both worlds, because I still get to work on the front lines with the community, but also get to manage people and make them better,” said Francis.

Francis is a graduate of Arizona State University with degrees in recreation management and sociology. She supervises five people and oversees programs ranging from nature camps and parties to bird watching and gardening.

“I’m trying to make the EEC kind of like a museum, where there are things for people to do with their hands, with their sight and with their hearing,” Francis explained.

The facility had over 73,000 visitors last fiscal year and is growing in popularity. The Environmental Education Explorations program is among the most popular, with nearly 2,400 participants last year.

This program provides hands-on learning activities for students and focuses on sustainability and the environment of the Sonoran Desert. Another popular program, Nature Parties, provides nature-themed birthday parties for children.

“The first hour is instructor led where we provide the activities and crafts,” Francis said. “The second hour we’re available to assist, but it’s their time.”

The EEC is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Thursday and from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Fridays. Saturday hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for from June through August, when the center closes at 2 p.m.

If you bump into Francis when visiting, don’t be upset if she tells you to take a hike. She is simply encouraging you to try out one of the wonderful walking trails the park has to offer.