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EXPLORE NATURE CLOSE TO HOME

Operation Wild provides hands-on environmental education and
accessible nature experiences for adults living with disabilities to
promote well-being, environmental stewardship, and social inclusion.

CEDAR HAVEN ECO-CENTRE - FREELTON, ONTARIO

Get email updates on special events and workshops for support stafF:

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Tucked away just 20 minutes outside of Hamilton, Ontario, you’ll find 95 acres of natural land and clean, fresh air. This is a secret retreat where trees reach for the sun’s warmth, wildlife comes out to play, and you live and learn through your senses.

When you step off the bus into lush fields of green, the first thing you’ll notice is how quiet and peaceful it is. 

The city sirens and traffic noise just fade away… 

All you can hear are wildflowers dancing in the breeze and birds chirping as they soar over a sparkling pond, inviting you to explore this little slice of heaven for the next few hours.

Welcome to Cedar Haven Eco-Centre

IN FREELTON, ONTARIO

For adults living with barriers or disabilities,
this is a gateway to real wonder, rare serenity, and a
newfound respect and appreciation for the natural world.

ESCAPE THE STRESS OF CITY LIFE

“It’s hard for me to get out of the city. I like to sit in the sun and watch the birds over the pond. It’s very relaxing and the air is so clean.”
– Participant

THE EXPERIENCE

Operation Wild is about more than making nature accessible to everyone.

It’s an opportunity to explore the beauty of the world around us, so we can cultivate a love that inspires us to care for it. It’s an inclusive space to make new friends and find a place of belonging in our local community. And it’s an invitation to reconnect with nature and feel rejuvenated.

FREE PROGRAMMING

We’re funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, so our program is currently free for all participants and includes transportation if required.

3-HOUR FIELD TRIPS

Let us put together a 3-hour itinerary or interactive workshop for your group that blends fun, relaxation, and education.

CUSTOMIZED FOR YOU

We take groups of 5-15 and customize our activities and programming for your group’s interests, abilities, and schedule.

ADVENTURE

Get your hands dirty, turn your binoculars skyward to watch winged wonders, and explore your natural curiosities at Cedar Haven.

EDUCATION

Experience nature in a hands-on way, building the practical skills and confidence to support a
sustainable world.

CONSERVATION

Discover easy ways to care for creation in the city, like building a backyard bird feeder or growing an
indoor herb garden.

What's included?

Hands-on learning, guided walks, and skill-building activities

Free bus transportation to and from Cedar Haven if required

Take-home handouts and workshop projects

WHAT DO PARTICIPANTS BRING?

Seasonally appropriate clothing and walking shoes

Any water, snacks, or lunch required for your day trip

At least one support worker needs to be in attendance with each group

feel like a kid again

“A participant came to two of our events – a wildflower themed day and the end of year stargazing event. At each of the visits, I had a chance to chat with her, and she told me all about her childhood, as she had grown up on a farm. Every flower, animal, and star reminded her of another happy childhood story, and I was amazed by the ways nature brought back the same joy it had brought her in the stories she was recalling.”

– Operation Wild Staff

Activities & Workshops for Everyone

From hands-on educational workshops to relaxing recreational activities,
we’ve got something for everyone. Whether your group wants to
explore our forests and fields, participate in fun conservation projects, or
learn simple ways to create green spaces at home and in their cities, we can
design a meaningful experience that engages them in creation care.

*Please ask us about hands-on workshops and special events when
booking your group, as they vary based on seasonal availability.

Our most popular programs include, but are not limited to...

Guided Nature Walks

Discover different species of plants, trees, and flowers — plus their surprising medicinal and culinary uses! Look at urban environments with new eyes and go home with a recognition and appreciation of the diverse habitats we have in our cities.

  • Wander through a rich diversity of forest habitats, from hardy hardwoods to northern conifers
  • Learn how to identify different trees based on leaves, leaf scars, bark, and scent
  • Use helpful memory aid tools to identify different species of flora and fauna around your home area
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Cedar Haven Forest Walk

Wellness WALKS

The sun’s warmth, the rustle of a breeze, the scent of pine — these natural wonders have real restorative powers. Studies show that being out in nature eases stress and worry, brightens our mood, and makes us more mindful of our surroundings. Whether it’s walking under a forest canopy or tickling wildflowers with our fingertips, our guided walks give participants a chance to escape the city and soak in the soul-nourishing sights, smells, sounds, textures, and tastes of nature.

  • 30-90-minute mindful walks to take pause, reflect, and enjoy the peace and quiet of the natural world
  • Use the ancient practice of “forest bathing” to clear the mind and boost the immune system
  • Reconnect with yourself, others, and nature through guided meditations and gratitude circles

SEASONAL WORKSHOPS

Whether it’s harvesting rhubarb in the spring or making wildflower bouquets in the summer, there’s always something fun going on at Cedar Haven. Participate in interactive workshops that give you a chance to bring home the fruits of your labour and savour them!

  • Plant or harvest flowers and vegetables in our gardening workshops
  • Take home a wildflower bouquet you made for you or a friend
  • Try out one of our favourite seasonal recipes at home using the fresh produce you picked on the farm
  • Collect sticks, rocks, leaves, and flowers to create unique Mandala geometric art
  • Make a wreath or backyard bird feeder that you can put up at home
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PRACTICE CARING FOR CREATION

Get hands-on with A Rocha’s conservation efforts. Join our on-site scientists to help us collect data on the different species of plants, fish, birds, and insects living at Cedar Haven, so you can help us care for their natural habitat.

  • Search for milkweed plants and monarch butterfly larvae with us to monitor their growth and development
  • Use nets to catch fish from the creek that runs through our property or dragonflies and mayflies at our pond, so we can create an inventory
  • Tell different native, non-native, and invasive plants apart using common markers and identifiers

BIRDING

Break out those binoculars to observe different bird species in their natural habitat on one of our bird walks! Learn about their breeding and nesting habits and how you can use feeders and nest boxes to help the birds in your own backyard thrive.

  • Feed the chickadees and take advantage of a great photo op
  • Visit Swallowsville to birdwatch, identify different bird species, and learn what you can do to help protect them
  • Discover how different bird species communicate in the wild and use “bird language” to join their conversations
Cedar Haven Tree Swallow
Cedar Haven Garden

URBAN CREATION CARE

Opportunities to connect with nature in the city are everywhere if you know where to look. Let the Operation Wild team come to you and plan group programs in your own neighbourhood. We’ll introduce you to community gardens, local conservation projects, and accessible green spaces where your group can connect over creation care.

  • Learn how to build healthier ecosystems in your own backyard using the same skills we teach at Cedar Haven
  • Discover urban green spaces and simple ways to connect with nature in the city
  • Get involved in local conservation projects and make a meaningful impact in your community

SEE HOW ACCESSIBLE NATURE CAN BE, EVEN IF YOU LIVE IN THE CITY

“With one group, we did a wildflower activity in which every participant took a bouquet of flowers home with them. A few weeks later, when some of the same people came for stargazing, one man came up to me, remembered my name, and told me about how the wildflowers had lasted a whole week on his kitchen counter and made the whole house smell wonderful.”

– Operation Wild Staff

meet the team

We envision a world where everyone has access to green spaces,  
because the more connected we feel to the natural world,
the more we care about protecting and conserving it.

ALLISON GELEYNSE

Program Coordinator & Guide

Allison has a diploma in Developmental Services and spent 6 years as a support worker. After cultivating community gardens with A Rocha during a summer internship, Allison saw how a little fresh air and dirt had the power to comfort, rejuvenate, and bring people together. With mental health challenges on the rise, she hopes Operation Wild will give people living with barriers access to the therapeutic benefits of nature and inspire community conservation efforts in our local cities.

BEN McCULLOUGH

Cedar Haven Manager & Guide

With a background in agriculture and outdoor education, Ben’s mission is to foster a sense of ecological hope amidst the environmental crisis. He sees Cedar Haven as a place where individuals with barriers can connect over creation care and learn all about the small, everyday ways they can have a big impact on the health of our urban environments. Ben is growing Cedar Haven into a paradise for birds, trees, butterflies, bees, and of course, people! 

tim martin

Program Educator

Tim is a birder, poet, and teacher who is passionate about education for social and environmental justice. He’s currently completing a Masters of Environmental Studies at York University. Tim helps Operation Wild develop hands-on nature experiences that engage adult learners through curiosity, wonder-seeking, awareness of the natural world, and storytelling. For him, environmental stewardship starts with a love of nature and a recognition of our spiritual connection to it.

summer students

Claire-square

Claire

Operation wild program assistant

Jeremy-square

jeremy

operation wild program assistant

make new friends

“One participant said he’d grown up in the country and missed the country life a lot. During his trip, he fed a horse a carrot from between his teeth, sat on the floor in the barn beside a pig feeding it lettuce, traipsed through the garden picking tomatoes, and told us lots of stories about his childhood and how wonderful it is to live in the country.”

– Operation Wild Staff

SPECIAL THANKS to OUR SPONSOR

THE ONTARIO TRILLIUM FOUNDATION

Working in partnership with our funder, The Ontario Trillium Foundation,
Operation Wild is committed to providing accessible services to people with
barriers or disabilities, building inclusive and engaged communities, and encouraging
others to support a healthy and sustainable environment.

Take Part in Transforming People and Places

Operation Wild is built on the belief that environmental stewardship is rooted in discovery, exploration, and play.
We inspire people to care about the world around them by cultivating a love of nature through
interactive education and meaningful creation care experiences.

Our mission is about more than making nature accessible for
adults with barriers or disabilities. It’s about making nature more
accessible in urban environments and in our homes.

partner

We’re always looking for organizations that are ready to make Operation Wild a part of their regular weekly or monthly programming.

volunteer

Our dedicated volunteers and student interns are what make every participant’s experience more memorable.

donate

If you want to support conservation, environmental education and programs like Operation Wild, donate today to A Rocha Canada.

Book Your Visit at Cedar Haven

We’d love to help you customize a trip for your group!

To get more info and start planning your visit to Cedar Haven, fill out our inquiry form or contact us directly.
Email Allison:  allison.geleynse@arocha.ca

Schedule a call with Allison

faq

Every program or activity is completely customized to the individual group, so we can make sure that any trails or areas your participants need to access will accommodate their abilities.

We require a minimum of 5 participants for a group trip and can accommodate up to 15.

Most groups plan to be on the property for 3 hours. We understand that groups have different interests and abilities, and are happy to customize your trip to meet your group’s needs.

We typically run programs from 10-1pm or from 1-4pm, but for groups that need to be back home to Hamilton to catch transportation at a specific time, we’re here to work around your schedule.

We require that at least one support worker comes with your group, but we’re pros! We’ll take care of everything for you during your visit with us.

In the case of lousy weather, you can get a “rain check” on your Operation Wild experience! We’re happy to reschedule your trip for another date.

We ask that you bring any water, snacks, and lunch your group requires for the day.

Get email updates on special events and workshops for support staff:

Copyright © 2019.
All Rights Reserved. Operation Wild, A Project of A Rocha Canada. Charity Number: 866638943RR0001

Meet Cedar Haven’s Four-Legged Residents

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art

RETIRED HORSE

Art is a gentle giant who likes to greet our visitors with a friendly neigh at the gate.

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moses

rescue pony

Mischievous Moses proves that big personality can come in a small package!

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molly

rescue donkey

Since the boys pick on Molly a bit, she loves to get extra love (and carrots) from our visitors.

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princess

rescue goat

Just like her name suggests, Princess loves nothing more than being spoiled!