Los Alamos Nature Center Earns State Award

The Los Alamos Nature Center has received the Top HAT Award for Outstanding Attraction from the New Mexico Hospitality Association. PEEC Educator Sandra West, right, accepts the award for PEEC. Courtesy/NMHA
Los Alamos Daily Post

Residents and visitors have ample opportunities to explore the local natural landscape, thanks to the Los Alamos Nature Center.

Whether it is hiking excursions, planetarium shows or summer camps for students, the center showcases all the things the great outdoors offers. Its efforts caught the state’s attention and as a result, the Los Alamos Nature Center received the 2018 Top HAT Award for Outstanding Attraction from the New Mexico Hospitality Association.

According to a press release, the award was presented to the nature center Nov. 8 during the association’s awards gala.

“Our staff couldn’t be more excited to receive this award,” PEEC Marketing Manager Rachel Landman said. “It’s a huge deal to receive a state-wide award. We’re really thankful to everyone in the community: our donors, our volunteers, the people who show up to our events … we really couldn’t do it without them.”

Top HAT Awards celebrate organizations, businesses, individuals, venues and more that have performed exceptional work to elevate the travel, tourism and lodging industry in New Mexico, according to the press release.

The center is operated by the Pajarito Environmental Educational Center (PEEC). PEEC Executive Director Katie Bruell nominated the nature center for the award, Landman said. She added there were five finalists for the award.

Even before receiving the award, the nature center garnered a lot of interest and attention.

It is stated in the press release that since its opening on Earth Day 2015, the nature center serves more than 40,000 people annually through its exhibits and gardens, programs, events, school field trips and more.

Additionally, it is reported in the press release that PEEC was previously the finalist for a Top HAT Award in 2016 for its popular program the Passport to the Pajarito Plateau. Plus, PEEC was awarded the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Environmental Education in 2016 and won the Non-Profit of the Year award from the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce in 2017 and 2018.

This year, PEEC also was the inaugural winner of the “Family Friendly Business of the Year” award at the Los Alamos Chamber Awards.

What is the secret to its success? Landman said she believes it is because PEEC keeps things local.

“I think the fact that we focus so specifically on local nature,” she said. “We hear time and time again from our participants that they love it.”

PEEC also serves a wide range of people. It has programs for infants, senior citizens and everyone in between, Landman said. It also is a true asset to the County’s tourism industry.

The hospitality association wrote, “The Los Alamos Nature Center demonstrated it has a truly international appeal with visitors from an estimated 34 different countries visiting the center over the past year. The center also takes a collaborative approach to creating a great visitor experience, which helps boost tourism for the entire region.”

“We’re happy to bring more tourists up here to Los Alamos,” Landman said.

The center also enjoys strong community support. According to the press release, approximately 10 percent of Los Alamos residents are PEEC members and more than 150 people volunteer at the nature center, logging more than 10,000 hours of their time annually.

PEEC was formed in 2000 by a group of passionate citizens that had the goal of bringing a nature center to Los Alamos. PEEC’s mission is “enriching people’s lives by strengthening their connections to our canyons, mesas, mountains and skies.” To learn more about the Los Alamos Nature Center, visit losalamosnature.org, call 505.662.0460 or stop by the nature center at 2600 Canyon Road.