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EXPLORE NATURE CLOSE TO HOME

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

CEDAR HAVEN ECO-CENTRE - FREELTON, ONTARIO

OVER 2900 PARTICIPANTS TO DATE ...

OW_HomeCedarHaven1

WELCOME TO CEDAR HAVEN ECO-CENTRE

IN FREELTON, ONTARIO

 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.

Covid-19 Protocols

To ensure everyone’s safety, we are taking the following actions to ensure everyone’s safety, however, we also recognize that even the most proactive precautions and measures cannot guarantee participants will not be exposed to COVID-19. 

  1. Outdoor Programming:  Operation Wild programming occurs 100% outdoors, which provides a safer atmosphere in comparison to indoor alternatives.
  2. Physical Distancing:   Firstly, we will cap group sizes at 10 participants, not including support staff and Operation Wild instructors.  While 10 is our maximum, we are flexible in accommodating for smaller group sizes if groups prefer.  Secondly,  physical distancing will be strongly encouraged, and masks are mandatory in the unlikely event that physical distancing isn’t possible.
  3. Hygiene and Sanitation:  All high touch surfaces and equipment such as washrooms, benches, tables, equipment and teaching tools will be cleaned between every visit.   Two hand washing stations have been set up, one beside each washroom.

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.

1-3 HOUR session

Let us put together an itinerary or interactive workshop for your group that blends fun, relaxation, and education.

CUSTOMIZED FOR YOU

We take groups of 5-12 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
indoor herb gardenS.

What's included?

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

Free bus transportation to and from Cedar Haven if required

Occasional 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

“After I had my stroke, they told me I would never get to do things like this again, and now here I am. I love being here and doing this kind of stuff.”

– Participant

 

“I love the stillness. It’s so nice to get away from the sirens and the busyness of the city.”

– Participant

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

* For a full list of currently available programs click the "Plan Your Visit" button at the top of the page. *

Guided Nature Walk

Discover different species of plants, trees, and flowers — plus their surprising medicinal and culinary uses! Gain an appreciation for the diverse habitats we have in our cities.

Wellness Walks

Studies show that being out in nature eases stress, brightens our mood, and makes us more mindful of our surroundings. Our guided walks give participants a chance to soak in the sights, smells, sounds, textures, and tastes of nature.

Seasonal Workshops

Whether it is creating wildflower bouquets or harvesting fruits and vegetables, 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!

Practice Creation Care

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.  Monitor the growth and health of milkweed, trout, butterflies and native plant species.

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 thrive in your own backyard.

Urban Creation Care

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

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.

Matt Koning

Program Coordinator

Matt plays a vital role in the education programs with A Rocha Ontario that promote healthy places and people.  Matt believes deeply that each person is created with the need to connect with the natural world in meaningful ways to benefit ourselves and the world around us.  With a background in social services, Matt’s mission at Cedar Haven is to provide these opportunities for people of all abilities, ages, and backgrounds. Discovering and learning about the natural world promotes our own wellness and enables us to care for God’s world well.  Matt lives in Hamilton with his wife Adrianna, and his daughter Charlotte. 

Jeremy Petrusma

Environmental Educator

Jeremy has worked with A Rocha for three summers in education and conservation roles and has now joined our team as a full-time educator.  Whether leading immersive nature experiences for people with disabilities, children’s day camps or class trips, Jeremy is able to engage people – of all abilities – in accessible learning experiences that allow each individual to thrive.


BEN McCULLOUGH

Cedar Haven Manager & environmental educator

Ben is excited to reintroduce people to the natural world and help foster a sense of ecological kinship with the rest of creation. With a background in environmental education, Ben creates experiences where people of all abilities can connect over creation care and learn how to positively interact with their environment on a daily basis. Ben is growing Cedar Haven into a paradise for birds, trees, butterflies, bees, and of course, people! 

BUILD MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS

“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 SPONSORs

Working in partnership with our funders; The Ontario Trillium Foundation, 
The Government of Canada, and The Community Foundations of Canada, 
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.

faq

We are excited to share that as on August 2020, our site is fully accessible as we have installed accessible Grass Mats.  If you have any concerns about our site’s accessibility, please contact Matt at matt.koning@arocha.ca

We require a minimum of 5 participants for a group trip and can accommodate up to 12.

Most groups plan to be on the property from 1-3 hours. We understand that groups have different interests and abilities, and are happy to customize your trip to meet your group’s needs.

Operation Wild typically offers both morning and afternoon sessions beginning as early as 9am, and ending as late as 4pm. For groups that need to be back home to Hamilton to catch transportation at a specific time, we’re happy to work around your schedule.

We require each group to attend with at least one support workers. We are the experts on the sessions being offered and on adapting sessions to meet the needs of your group. We ask support workers to be the experts of their group and their individual needs. We encourage support staff to fully participate in sessions. 

Please give us a call the day of your session if you have concerns about the weather. We are happy to offer programs in the rain as long as we can determine it is safe to do so!

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

Stay connected and get updates on new program and availability:

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!