The stroll down Ogden Nature Center’s Birdhouse Trail is a magical walk enhanced by grand views of Ben Lomond to the north, and punctuated by the occasional sighting of a deer or skunk.

But the stars of the show are the birdhouses. There are more than 100, and new ones are added every year by members of the community who build them as entries in the annual birdhouse competition.

What some visitors may not know, however, is that Birdhouse Trail is just one of the many public art installations at this beloved urban nature preserve that turns 50 next year.

“In our strategic plan, one of our core values is ‘appreciation of art and beauty,’” said Brandi Bosworth, the center’s public relations and special projects coordinator. “(Art) is something we value at Ogden Nature Center.”

The design of the Visitor Center, opened in 1995, and the L.S. Peery Education Center, opened in 2005, kept nature and artistic aesthetics at the forefront. Both are built to blend with the natural environment. But there is so much more to see. Let’s take a quick tour.

Before you enter the center’s front gate — a massive cattail-adorned metal piece that also was specially created for the facility — take a look at the flags that line the sidewalk along 12th Street.

Depending on the season, they may be images of original whimsical wildlife paintings by local artists Michel Onyon or Kate Bruce. Or they may be images of the Monarch Butterfly life cycle or Utah native animals printed atop images of Mt. Ogden topographical maps, both created by renowned artist Jane Kim.

Kim, as some may recall, is the artist behind all of the Monarch Butterfly mural art in Ogden, from the Nature Center banners, to the wall mural inside Weber State’s fine arts building, to the image emblazoned across The Monarch Venues downtown. Kim’s monarchs adorn public spaces throughout North America, following the monarchs’ migration paths.

The original paintings for the banners by Onyon and Bruce hang inside the Visitor Center. Bruce, an Ogden painter, former head of the Ogden Arts Council, and recipient of a 2014 Mayor’s Art Award, said she was thrilled to be asked to participate.

“It was a huge honor. It was something I hadn’t dreamed of before — painting something proportionally that was going to be blown up that big,” Bruce said. “And it was the start of my woodland series. I’d never even attempted to paint animals like that before.”

After admiring the Onyon and Bruce originals in the Discovery room area of Visitor Center, look up. The landscape murals are by Russ Swain, who was commissioned to do them in memory of longtime ONC benefactors Hugh and Beth Ford.

Also, take a close look at the walls. The sweet botanicals that adorn much of the space were hand-painted by the late Terry Johnson, a celebrated local artist who also worked in bronze.

Three of Johnson’s bronze sculptures are found outdoors: a Great Blue Heron in the pond next to the terminus of Birdhouse Trail; a set of California Quail sitting in the shade in front of the Visitor Center, and a small boy holding an owl at the start of the Birds of Prey walkway.

The owl the boy is holding is a likeness of Gidget, a tiny non-releasable Saw Whet Owl that called the center home for many years.

Back inside The Nest gift shop, notice the giant teasel sculpture dangling in the center of the room. Teasel is a thistle-like invasive that grows all over Utah. But in this spot, it’s welcome.

Bob Herman, the Visitor Center architect, purchased the piece for the center after it won an award in a Weber State student art competition. He thought ONC was the perfect space for it.

Before heading outside to find the Johnson bronzes and other statues, look up at the wood songbirds that ring the ceiling. They are life-size, hand-carved pieces by the late Emmet Parker.  Parker would add one or two a year, Bosworth said. They are one of the most treasured items at the center.

The newest art acquisition is, “Commander Ga,” a spiraling cherry-branch piece that hangs directly over the visitor services desk. Crafted and donated by Jim Jacobs, a retired WSU visual arts professor, the piece gains immediate attention from most visitors as they stop to sign in. The work is, in part, a reflection on the kinship between humans and the natural world.

Outside, in addition to Johnson’s sculptures, there are two bronzes of children playing. One, of a child holding another in the air, is positioned right outside the Visitor Center. The other, a child peering into the face of a frog he is holding at eye level, is in front of the Education Building. Both of these are production pieces, but they were part of a series of bronze statues that were installed in Ogden during the 2002 Winter Olympics.

It could take half a day to find and see all of the art at the Nature Center — before you even hit the trails or visit Cronk the Raven. And anyone who wants to be a part of the ongoing art that lines Birdhouse Trail better get cracking. Birdhouse submissions for this year’s contest are due March 11-16. Details on what and how to enter are at www.ogdennaturecenter.org.

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