The Tacoma Nature Center is a 71-acre nature preserve encompassing Snake Lake and the surrounding wetlands and forest. A facility of Metro Parks Tacoma within the Zoological and Environmental Education Department, the Nature Center is also a partner in education with Tahoma Audubon, offering the very best in nature education in Tacoma and Pierce County. The Tacoma Nature Center is dedicated to enhancing our understanding and appreciation of the natural world through education and recreation. Education efforts focus on wetlands, watersheds and non-point source pollution, urban wildlife and stewardship of natural landscapes. The Nature Center serves people from all over Pierce County with a high percentage of Tacoma residents. The main user group is families with young children. Programming at the Nature Center includes school group programs, homeschool science programs, scout adventures, summer youth camps, birthday party programs, special events for families, and an on-site nature preschool. Inside the Nature Center is an exhibit area designed to immerse the visitor in a park-like setting. With animal enclosures holding native reptiles and amphibians, painted murals and life-like animal and plant replicas and interactive exhibits, visitors can learn what animals and plants might be found in Washington wetlands. Visitors are also provided with a self-guided interpretive trail guide to help them learn about and enjoy the rest of the park as they use the 2 ½ miles of trails. Off-site nature programming including youth nature camps, after-school science clubs, nature walks, low-tide events and programs, school outreach programs and more is based out of the Nature Center as well. In addition to the exhibit area, programs and nature trails, there is also an outdoors nature-themed play area designed for children ages 5 – 12 years old. With a large water feature and log bridges, a treehouse, a slide in a log and more, this is a very popular year-round destination. Although there is a charge for the majority of the programs, use of the building exhibit area, play area and park trails is free with donations requested. The Nature Center operates a small gift shop to supplement revenue and rental reservations are also an important source of income. The Friends of the Tacoma Nature Center membership program allows families and organizations to support the Nature Center to a greater level and includes a newsletter and discounts on programs and in the gift shop.