ANCA CONNECTS: Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center & Botanical Gardens in Fort Davis, Texas

Feb 16 2024


Friday, February 16 — 9am-4pm CT

Join us for an enriching day of professional development and networking at the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center & Botanical Gardens in Fort Davis, Texas. This CONNECTS program offers you the opportunity to connect with professional peers while learning about the operations of nature centers, outdoor schools, and related organizations. 

Photo Trail to Claytons OverlookThe Nature Center’s 507-acre site features a captivating landscape of semi-desert grasslands and igneous rock outcrops. During the program, you can explore and learn about the grounds as well as Powell Visitor Center, including exhibits and an extensive, nature-based gift shop. This is an excellent opportunity to see another organization’s operations firsthand.

This program includes discussion-based sessions about operations at nature centers and outdoor schools. These sessions invite all participants to contribute to the discussion, so that you can hear a variety of perspectives from professionals at other organizations. Program participants will be able to suggest session topics — this allows you to bring any question where you'd like insights from professional peers.

Throughout the program you will have opportunities to connect with peers and build your professional network. As such you will not only have new ideas and resources to implement at your organization following this CONNECTS, but you will also gain professional connections that can support your work throughout the year.

This ANCA CONNECTS program is for any professional at a nature center, outdoor school, or related organization. We welcome both ANCA members and non-members along with professionals from outside Texas to attend.



Registration has closed.



Fort Davis is on Central Time. Activities on Thursday are optional.

Thursday, February 15

2-5pm Visit Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center & Botanical Gardens independently.
Explore five miles of hiking trails (with excellent birding), visit the Botanical Gardens, Cactus Museum Collection, and Mining Heritage Exhibit.
6pm Dinner at the Blue Mountain Bar & Grill in Fort Davis.
At the Hotel Limpia — the address is 101 Memorial Square / Fort Davis. You are responsible for dinner expenses.


Friday, February 16

7:30-9am Birding
Join CDRI for an early walk on the trails.
9-9:30am Check-in
A light breakfast and coffee will be available.
9:30-10am Welcome to CDRI
10-10:30am Intro to ANCA
10:30-11am Break
Snacks provided.
11am-12:30pm Tour of the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center & Botanical Gardens
Enjoy a guided tour of the Botanical Gardens, including the Pollinator Garden and the Cactus Museum Collection, to learn more about the Nature Center and its programming.
12:30-1:30pm Lunch and Networking
1:30-2pm Open Space planning
2-3:30pm  Open Space Sessions
3:45-4pm  Wrap-up and Farewell



This CONNECTS will use an Open Space format where any participant can suggest a session topic; all participants then collectively decide which session topics will be held.

Sessions are discussion-based, where participants contribute to the conversation and a facilitator guides the dialogue to keep the discussions on track and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to participate. These discussions allow you to share with your peers, learn new ideas, and work together to find solutions.

If you suggest a topic and it is chosen as a session, you will be asked to introduce the topic and facilitate the discussion among the participants. Because all participants contribute to the conversation, as the facilitator you do not need to be perceived as the expert in the room; you can simply start the conversation and engage accordingly.

This system allows you to collaboratively create your experience, and provides the opportunity for you to be an active participant rather than a passive listener.

Session Topics

Topics may include any subject pertaining to the management of nature centers and related organizations, as well as trends in our profession. 

Examples of topics include:

Advocacy and civic engagement
Capital campaigns
Database management
Diversity, equity, and inclusion
Endowments and investing

Exhibit planning
Marketing and communications
Membership programs
Nature playscape construction
Nature preschool management

Program management
Risk management
Strategic and master planning
Working with a board of directors
Workplace environments


About the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center & Botanical Gardens

Located four miles from Fort Davis, the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center & Botanical Gardens is a nonprofit organization established in December 1973. The 507-acre site is composed of semi-desert grasslands and igneous rock outcrops. Open year-round, the Nature Center offers over five miles of hiking trails, in addition to the Desert Botanical Gardens, the Maxie Templeton Cactus Museum Collection, the Bird Blind, the Heritage Mining Exhibit, and the Geologic Timeline display in front of the Powell Visitor Center. Inside the Visitor Center, you'll find more exhibits and information, plus the thoughtfully appointed Nature Center Gift Shop.




Address: 43869 St. Hwy 118 / Fort Davis, TX 79734
Directions on Google Maps


Nearby Lodging

If you're looking for a place to stay overnight, see these options: