New Nature Facility Opens Its Doors to Bring Oregon’s Wildlife and Wild Places to More Kids

Marmot Cabin Is Open for Outdoor School and Youth Programs

PORTLAND, OREGON — Bird Alliance of Oregon celebrated the completion of its newly built Marmot Cabin, a 3,200-square-foot educational camp in Sandy, Oregon, just in time for Outdoor School and winter break programs for youth. Marmot Cabin is now open for reservations for the 2018-2019 Outdoor School season.

Key stakeholders and staff cut the ribbon on October 4, and Marmot Cabin saw its very first school groups the following week for immersive nature education programs with expert environmental educators. “This is our first capital project in 25 years, and allows us to take our educational programming to a new level,” said Nick Hardigg, Executive Director.

An educator speaks to a group of kids at the bottom of a field in front of Marmot Cabin.
An Outdoor School program explores the forest edge outside of the new Marmot Cabin.

With the new facility, Marmot’s capacity tripled, allowing thousands of kids to experience the magic of Marmot, taking night hikes in search of bats and owls, tracking bears along a stream, learning to understand bird language, and investigating the subtleties of animal tracking. And more importantly, more youth will have the opportunity to build lifelong connections with the natural world.

Originally donated to Bird Alliance of Oregon in 1977 by Joe and Amy Miller, Marmot Cabin and the 91-acre Miller Wildlife Sanctuary offer the perfect place for children to explore forest, meadow, and creek habitat.

Bird Alliance of Oregon knew that for Marmot to reach its full potential as a dedicated environmental education facility, a new structure was pivotal. The reimagined Marmot Cabin allows the organization to reach more youth from diverse backgrounds and is ADA accessible so that more kids can have access to nature education. The cabin, as well as other upgrades like two 30-foot yurts, transform the facility into a place where kids can comfortably learn, play and explore.

“Marmot Cabin opens up new opportunities for our education team to connect children with the forest, inspiring what we hope will be a lifelong commitment to caring for and protecting wild spaces and the birds and other animals that call those spaces home,” said Nicki Dardinger, Bird Alliance of Oregon’s Education Director.

In addition to being a gateway to the natural world for kids, Marmot Cabin serves as a teaching tool for sustainable design. Bird Alliance of Oregon is proud to have ensured that the structure was built with sustainably certified (FSC) wood and other sustainably harvested materials, such as madrone flooring. In order to be good neighbors to the wildlife on the sanctuary, bird-safe windows were installed in the cabin to reduce window-collisions. And in the building process, we enacted a plan to cause minimal disruption to the landscape, by preserving a mature big-leaf maple and western red cedar next to the cabin.

There is still one final touch that will be added this winter: a grand fireplace that will tell the geological history of Oregon. Geologist Dr. Scott Burns and the Geological Society of the Oregon Country are helping Bird Alliance of Oregon build a monumental fireplace with stones from across the Oregon landscape…from fossils to volcanoes to thunder eggs.

“One of the most exciting features of Marmot Cabin is that we can now affordably provide the type of immersive nature programming to kids we never could reach before. We want to make nature experiences more affordable, and now can offer more scholarships to help make that possible,” said Nick Hardigg.

The new Marmot Cabin could not have been built without the generous support of 293 individual donors and foundations, all of whom believe in the transformative power of nature education. Many of these donors joined us at Marmot for a day of celebration to see the new building, and officially open Marmot Cabin for future generations.

Marmot Cabin and the Miller Wildlife Sanctuary are used solely for Bird Alliance of Oregon’s environmental education programs and are not open to the public for general use.

Founded in 1902, Bird Alliance of Oregon is one of the oldest conservation organizations in the nation. It promotes the understanding, enjoyment and protection of native birds, other wildlife and their habitats through its conservation and environmental education programs, its 150-acre Nature Sanctuary and Nature Store in northwest Portland, and its Wildlife Care Center.

For more information, call 503-292-6855 or visit