by CYNTHIA KMETT
The Stage Nature Center launched a campaign in late 2017 to engage funders willing to underwrite the cost of a new permanent pavilion on the grounds of the Stage Nature Center. It was in late August when the staff received a phone call notifying them that the full amount of $30,000 to construct the pavilion was offered by the children and their spouses of Roger and Susie Kowalski, longtime residents of Troy. This funding was offered in honor of their parents under the condition that it be named after Susan and Roger Kowalski.
Construction for the pavilion has already begun – the cement pad was laid by the city in late September. The construction for the structure itself is expected to begin by late fall.
Carla Reeb, Executive Director of the Troy Nature Society, said, “Susie and Roger’s children are making a most generous contribution in honor of their parents and we are so pleased that they chose our nature center as a way to do that.”
The new pavilion will measure 20’ x 34’ and will be erected where the outdoor tent is typically located when you attend the ice cream summer gala. A request was made to the city council for approval of its placement in September and was unanimously approved. It’s similar in style to the pavilion in the dog park, but a bit bigger. It will be assembled by the city’s DPW staff in the not-too-distant future.
In September, the Kowalski family got together to celebrate Susie’s birthday and at that time, the news was announced that the pavilion would be constructed and named in their honor. In addition to this amazing gesture, Roger and Susie’s grandchildren got together funds to sponsor a trail bench in honor of their grandparents. The bench has a beautiful plaque on it and is located on the Sugar Maple loop for all to see.0
Susie and Roger are both active members of the Stage Nature Center and were part of the group of “concerned citizens” that saved the nature center from closure in 2010 when the Troy Nature Society was established.
The Troy Nature Society is a nonprofit organization that currently has an operating agreement with the city of Troy to manage the educational programs and events at the Stage Nature Center. Roger and Susie are chartered members of the Troy Nature Society, and they are both currently serving on the TNS Board of Directors. Most recently, Roger served as the TNS Board President (2017-2018). Both he and Susie have also served on various fundraising committees, including the nature center’s annual fundraiser “Nature Uncorked” and the first annual 5K “Run For Nature” which was held in June of 2018.
You probably remember the Kowalskis from their preretirement years. Roger and Susie have been a part of Troy for decades. Troy is where they worked and where they chose to raise a family. They have four children who grew up in Troy and participated in sports and drama club at Troy Athens High School. All but one of their children still live in the area.
Roger Kowalski was the Director of Troy’s Parks and Recreation Department for 27 years. Roger’s leadership and insight was the driving force for the establishment of 23 of the city’s 30 parks, the community center, golf course, nature center, and aquatic center. He also fostered the cooperative development and shared maintenance of facilities with the Troy School District. In 2016, Roger was honored by the Troy Historical Village as one of Troy’s “History Makers” for his many years of dedication and service to the community.
Susie Kowalski served as a school secretary at Smith Middle School for 23 years before her retirement. Her contributions to our community and especially to the Troy Nature Society since 2010 have been numerous and valuable. Susie was the organizing force for the nature center’s first 5K Run and fundraiser which was held in June 2018. Her insight and direction helped establish this new annual event for which over 230 people participated. The race allowed for a permanent trail to be created at the Troy Farm for the community to enjoy for running or walking. Susie was also a member of the Troy Junior Women’s Club which planted a stand of trees near the Fox Trail on the grounds of the nature center in honor of Martin Chivas, 24-year-old Troy Police Officer who was shot and killed in the line of duty in the mid-1970s.
The Stage Nature Center serves as a center for learning and contains two classrooms, a public research library, an observation bee hive, a wildlife viewing area and an exhibition lobby with a children’s activity area, mastodon dig site, Michigan wildlife interpretive display and a live reptile and amphibian display. During the monarch migration season (late summer), visitors can observe a live display where caterpillars, chrysalis and monarch butterflies may be viewed.
With the addition of the Kowalski Pavilion, it might just be the perfect place for your wedding or another special occassion.