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Leslie Science & Nature Center to continue programming off site amid contamination concerns

City of Ann Arbor continues to conduct testing on grounds

LSNC's mission is to: "Create moments of discovery that inspire curiosity, exploration and respect for STEM and the natural world. " (Credit: Leisa Thompson)

The executive director of the Leslie Science & Nature Center, Susan Westhoff, sent an email letter on Friday afternoon to patrons of LSNC announcing that programming will continue offsite throughout the fall.

The center made changes to its programming and halted construction on a new nature playscape in June when dangerous levels of heavy metals were detected in soil on its grounds.

Testing was conducted after an "unusual depression" was noticed in an area behind the center's DTE Energy House. Testing by an industrial toxicologist confirmed high levels of lead and arsenic. It was determined that the soil, if ingested, could pose a health risk so all programming was moved off site in what the city called "an abundance of caution."

In her letter, Westhoff said that the city is continuing testing to determine whether or not the grounds are safe or not for programming. 

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Read the full letter below:

Dear friends of LSNC,

Thank you so much for your friendship and continued support. I wanted to provide you an update on the Leslie Science & Nature Center. As you may recall, in June we discovered an unnatural depression in the woods while planning for a nature playscape, which led to an investigation by the city of Ann Arbor and testing of the LSNC site. This testing revealed some soil contamination was present throughout our site, and additional testing and treatment planning was needed. You can read more about this initial round of testing on the city's website.

The safety of our patrons, staff, and volunteers is our top priority, which is why we immediately moved all programming offsite where it remains to this day. Thanks to our partnership with the city, we can continue our high-quality programs throughout this fall at several area city parks.

Look for our annual family friendly Animal Haunts event on October 19th at Furstenberg, with an adults-only Hike N'Hootenanny the night before. Field trips for schools continue at Gallup Park, while our scout, birthday and preschool programming take place over at Olson Park. Our staff are energized and excited to explore these "new to us" parks and explore the many amazing natural features they have to offer!

During this challenging time, we have been reminded that the Leslie Science & Nature Center is so much more than a physical site with buildings and 25 acres of land. What makes our programs truly special is our amazing education staff, the incredible people who join us for programs, and our unique approach to experiencing our natural world together. With a focus on putting our participants at the center of learning, our programs and staff use sensory based experiences to "do science," promote environmental literacy, inspire discovery and curiosity about our natural world each and every day. 

In the weeks ahead, the city of Ann Arbor is continuing to do testing of this city park to determine the extent of any contamination and make plans for resetting the site for future programming and enjoyment for years to come. If you're interested in how you can best support the non-profit, LSNC, please consider making a donation or reach out to me directly to discuss upcoming events and needs.

I hope, as we continue to function offsite throughout the fall, that you will join us! Perhaps you too will discover a new place alongside our staff and make new and long-lasting connections to our shared world. 

With appreciation,

Susan Westhoff

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About the Author:

Meredith Bruckner

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.