A Partnership for People and Plants

Within months of each other, Tracy Aviary and The Road Home, an organization dedicated to helping people out of homelessness, moved into the same neighborhood in South Salt Lake. The Road Home began operating a new Men’s Resource Center, which provides shelter and services, in the fall of 2019. Right next door, Tracy Aviary opened its new Jordan River Nature Center, our second campus, focused on a local urban riparian habitat. From early planning stages, Tracy Aviary has been invested in making the Nature Center a place for all of its neighbors, including guests of the Resource Center. While our two organizations have very unique missions, we saw boundless opportunities to collaborate and quickly formed a partnership to explore how the Nature Center could support the guests of the Resource Center.


We initially considered bringing a nature-focused lecture series to the Resource Center, but when the pandemic hit, it became apparent that we should pursue the safer option of outdoor activities. At the same time, Tracy Aviary was planning habitat restoration efforts to support birds, butterflies, and bees. In spring of 2020, through funding from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Tracy Aviary staff planted five native plant gardens along the Jordan River Parkway south of the Nature Center. While these plants are drought-tolerant, we wanted to help them get established by watering and weeding for at least their first year.

When asked if the guests of the Resource Center might be interested in helping care for the plants, The Road Home staff thought it was worth a try. We set up a weekly schedule in which anyone at the Resource Center that morning could join us, masked and socially distanced.

Our expectations have been greatly exceeded! With consistent support from Resource Center guests, the plants are thriving – and they’re not the only ones. The Road Home sends staff along each week, and walking the trail together affords them an opportunity to have individual conversations with the guests, getting to know them better, making them aware of the resources available, and offering words of encouragement. The walks make the guests aware of the Parkway as a place of respite and give them a dedicated time to experience some of the mental and physical health benefits of time spent outside with supportive people. We also seek to build connections between guests of the Resource Center and other community members, so signs on the gardens proudly announce who cares for them. We see something as simple as a trail user taking the time to thank them while they’re caring for the plants as a big win.

This is just the beginning. Tracy Aviary is excited to continue our partnership with The Road Home and to build more community partnerships like this one. Learn more about the Jordan River Nature Center at www.jordanrivernaturecenter.org.

- Anne Terry, Director of Education