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At Fountain Creek Nature Center, "where there is water, there is life." That's the motto at the educational facility, nestled along the banks of the creek within a roughly 460-acre regional park between Colorado Springs and Fountain.

It's a hot spot for ecological education, situated among five different habitats, each with a unique collection of flora and fauna: a creek, woods, meadows, pond and marsh.

The center hosts events year-round, including a pumpkin carving party and jack-o'-lantern trail in October, nature hikes with Santa in December and the Pikes Peak Birding and Nature Festival in May. It's also the site of annual bird counts in the spring, fall and winter, when birders scour the surrounding areas of the park to take an inventory of the winged species nearby.

Thousands of schoolchildren visit the center each year on field trips to learn about ecological subjects, such as wetland habitats and insects. Inside, visitors can feel the pelt of a black bear or a badger and view under a microscope natural specimens, such as down feathers and turtle-shell fragments.

The nature center is just one of the Fountain Creek Regional Park's attractions. The park also includes Willow Springs Ponds, opened to license fishers angling for bluegill, trout, largemouth bass, catfish and other fish. The Duckwood active play area features an array of multi-purpose fields, picnic pavilions and a play area.

The facility is part of El Paso County Community Services Department and is funded, in part, by nonprofit Friends of EPC Nature Centers. A volunteer corps of more than 70 people, who also help out at the county's Bear Creek Nature Center, assist a handful of full-time staff members.

The center, at 320 Pepper Grass Lane, is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

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