Beth Stein, Executive Director

Beth has worked with Nearby Nature since 1994, serving in a variety of capacities, from program director to executive director. Beth is a writer, educator, storyteller, and key developer and manager of much of the educational programming at Nearby Nature. She is our lead programmer for our School Nature Walks Program, a School Classroom Visits instructor, a grant writer, our lead organizer for yearly special events, and our newsletter editor. She has also been know to dress up as Frannie the Frog! Beth has a B.A. in English Literature and a minor in Environmental Studies from Williams College. When she’s not working at Nearby Nature, you’ll find Beth hiking, biking, canoeing, baking, or reading.

Grace Chollar-Webb, Education Coordinator

Grace joined the Nearby Nature team at the beginning of 2019 as our Education Coordinator. In addition to coordinating youth programs overall, she teaches a variety of them herself, including Summer Daycamps, No School Day Adventures, Green Start Play Days, and starting in Fall 2020, Nearby Nature School sessions. Since graduating from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2012 with a degree in Environmental Education, Grace has taught classes on a small organic farm, led sea kayak tours in the Monterey Bay, and managed multiple nature based programs with Avery House Nature Center in Corvallis. She is excited to be part of the Nearby Nature community after spending the last few years getting to know the lush natural history of the Willamette Valley! Unless she’s cooking or baking, you can find Grace outside hiking with her dogs, gardening, swimming in the McKenzie River, making art, and learning more about ethnobotany!

Wil Orr, Park Host and Restoration Coordinator

Wil joined our staff in the Spring of 2020, and brings to his work a diverse range of professional and personal skills and interests. He has experienced the woods as a wildland firefighter, restored natural areas as a landscape technician, facilitated recreational tree climbs with the City of Eugene’s Outdoor Program, developed a sense of sustainability through years as a recycler, and studied arboriculture while working in tree care. After earning a degree in Computer Network Operations and certificates in Network Security and Web Development, he most recently spent a few years as an IT specialist at a local software company. His fascination with the outdoors, a desire to keep and restore our natural areas, and a strong passion for sharing nature with people drew Wil to Nearby Nature. In his free time, he loves to introduce new climbers to his favorite trees, hike local trails, ride and maintain bicycles, and play music with friends. Wil and his wife, Nichole, are interested in sustainable living, gardening, enjoying nature, and are currently converting their Bluebird school bus into an off-grid tiny home.

Bear Scamman, Educator and Assistant Park Host

Bear joined our staff in 2017 as an Assistant Park Host to help with the myriad of tasks that come along with caring for our Learnscape site and Alton Baker Park. Since that time, has also taught Summer Daycamps, No School Days, Nature Quests, and a variety of other educational programs. Starting in Fall 2020, he will also be one of our Nearby Nature School Instructors. He first joined our crew in 2016 as a Volunteer Nature Guide for our School Nature Walks Program. Bear originally hails from faraway Maine, where his family has lived for 11 generations! When he’s not busy at Nearby Nature, you might find Bear busy working on his Masters in Education at the University of Oregon or creating fun for kids as the Birthday Party Coordinator at the Eugene Science Center.


Alli Eroh, Program Assistant

Alli has been involved with Nearby Nature since the summer of 2019. She began as an intern for Summer Daycamps and now assists in our fall programs. She is passionate about outdoor education and environmental stewardship. During the school year, Alli is involved in various climate justice initiatives on the University of Oregon campus and spends most of her free time outdoors through UO Snow and the UO Outdoor Program. Alli is a junior at the University of Oregon expecting to graduate in
2022 with a BA in Business Administration and minors in Environmental Studies and Outdoor Education.

Avalon Reynolds-Brice, Educator

Avalon has been involved with Nearby Nature since she moved to Eugene in 2016. She started out as a Summer Daycamps volunteer, then began leading Nature Walks, and is now a Summer Daycamps and Nearby Nature School instructor! She loves the opportunity to combine her two favorite things, playing with little ones and being outside! During the school year you can find Avalon on Catalina Island teaching marine biology to elementary and middle schoolers for an outdoor education program. During the summer, if Avalon isn’t at Nearby Nature, you can probably find her singing and dancing along the beach, near a river, or on a mountain! Avalon graduated from the University of Oregon in 2017 with a BS in Environmental Science with a minor in Biology.

Emily Smith, Educator

Emily Smith joined our preschool daycamps teaching team in the summer of 2017. Originally from Southern Oregon, she has lived in the Willamette Valley for the past eight years. Emily holds a master’s degree in differentiated education, has been teaching elementary students since 2011, and has had over ten years of experience working with students of all ages. She is very fun loving and her passion is working with students. In her free time, Emily enjoys doing everything artistic, especially painting and drawing. She also enjoys fishing, gardening, and going on adventures with her husband.

Erica Walla, Educator

The first time Erica participated in a Nearby Nature camp, she was one of the group’s ten-year-olds! In 2013, Erica came back as an adult to lead our Wheels to Water daycamp and has been with us ever since, working with everyone from tiny ones to teens. During her time away from Nearby Nature, Erica studied in Bolivia and Peru, fought wildfires from Colorado to Alaska, taught basic bike mechanics and other skills at Maple Elementary in Springfield, and chaperoned middle school bike rides for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. Today, when not working for Nearby Nature or hanging out with her toddler, you might see her in a garden, playing soccer, pedicabbing, or biking to Portland. She has a B.A. in Environmental Studies and a minor in Biology from the University of Oregon. Erica will be forever grateful to Sharon Blick, one of Nearby Nature’s founders, and to those responsible for Eugene’s wildest parks and extensive bike system.

Lena Baucum, Educator

Lena joined our daycamps summer staff in 2019 and is an educator, curriculum writer, education consultant, and program developer by trade. Having grown up in the Eugene area, she recently returned home after 26 years and has taught Nearby Nature’s Spanish language daycamps for the past two years. She joins Nearby Nature with 19 years of experience teaching dual language programs and with a B.A. in Spanish, a B.A. in Education, and an M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction.  When she isn’t working, you can find Lena in the midst of a renovation project, Latin dancing, drawing, hiking, and being Mom to her two young daughters.

Margery Price, Program Assistant — coming soon!

Read Wagar, Program Assistant

Read first joined our crew in the summer of 2010 as a high school volunteer. He enjoyed working with our kids so much that he continued to volunteer throughout high school, college, and beyond. In the summer of 2020, he officially joined our staff and was a critical member of our educational team as well as one of our key COVID health and safety assistants. When Read is not at Nearby Nature, he enjoys camping, hiking, swimming, cooking (baking especially), and game nights.

Rachelle Dow, Educator

Rachelle joined our summer daycamps staff in the summer of 2020. When she’s not leading camps at Nearby Nature, Rachelle teaches 2nd-3rd grade in Pleasant Hill. She also spends lots of time traveling and has lived abroad in a variety of locations, including China and Romania! Rachelle loves the outdoors and particularly enjoys biking and kayaking. This summer, she looks forward to exploring and discovering nature nearby with our campers.

Sam McLemore, Educator

Sam has been involved with Nearby Nature as a volunteer in a variety of capacities, from leading nature walks to assisting with daycamps,  since 2012. She joined our teaching crew in 2020 to lead summer daycamp bike camps. During the school year she teaches Bike Safety to 5th & 6th graders in the Bethel and 4J school districts. Sam graduated from UO with a B.S. in Anthropology in 2002. For several years she lived and worked in California as a rock climber, a mountain guide in Yosemite, a substitute teacher, a mentor, and a tour docent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before moving back home to Eugene. She has been fully committed to bicycle commuting since 2008 and is eager to share her passion for safe riding techniques and her sheer joy for bike mechanics!

Tami Darden, Educator

Tami joined our crew as a summer daycamps instructor in 2015, having spent the school year teaching sustainability education in Eugene/Springfield elementary school classrooms. Tami has been an environmental educator for young and old alike and in many types of environments, from Hawaii to Alaska and many places in between. Getting people excited about nature is one of her favorite things to do — in her free time she loves to be out and about doing things like backpacking, kayaking, and hiking. Tami has a B.S. in Geology from Humboldt State University and has earned most of her M.S. degree in Forest Ecosystems and Society from Oregon State University.

Thomas Weaver, Educator

Thomas Weaver first joined Nearby Nature as a volunteer nature guide in the Fall of 2013. In the summer of 2014, he became a member of our summer teaching crew and has been teaching camps as well as occasional Nature Quests and No School Days ever since. He also acts in costume at the annual Haunted Hike! Originally a native of Virginia, Thomas enjoys hiking, camping, rock climbing, traveling, photography, volunteering, and doing theater in his spare time. He has a B.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Oregon (which included an internship planting indigenous trees in Ecuador) with a minor in Geology.


Network Charter School Instructors

Wendy McKenzie

Wendy has been a Network Charter School science teacher since 2003. She has worked with Nearby Nature since 1995 and served for many years as its Park Host, both in Alton Baker Park and at Armitage Park. In Wendy’s NCS classes, students develop a keen appreciation of the natural world as well as a clear understanding of the many threats that currently face it. Hands-on work in nature is a common project for students in her classes, who spend lots of time in NCS’s gardens as well as Nearby Nature’s Learnscape Outdoor Classroom. Wendy is also the original creator of Nearby Nature’s Kinder Critters!

Denise Velasco

Denise Velasco started her career with Nearby Nature as a volunteer and has been at the Network Charter School since the fall of 2004. Her classes include math, health, National Parks, events planning, and independent living. Every year, Denise plans and leads an amazing National Parks field trip for a small group of adventurous NCS students. When she’s not teaching at the Network Charter School, Denise is a mom to a wonderful little boy, and enjoys reading, baking, and gardening.

Billy Hughes

Billy Hughes has been an instructor with the Network Charter School since 2005. He loves to garden, hike, backpack, kayak, fish, ride his bike, wild craft, and relax in the great outdoors with his family. Nature is literally the “classroom” for all of Billy’s courses. Through his unique approach to PE, students enjoy fishing, playing ultimate frisbee, going on urban hikes, and gardening. Community service is also part of Billy’s recipe for a complete classroom experience, and his students often spend time helping out at Walama Restoration and at Food for Lane County gardens. He has a Permaculture Design Certification and a Permaculture Teachers Certification.

Emily Surgeon

Emily joined Nearby Nature’s crew of NCS teachers in February 2020. Emily engages students in language arts by relating it to their own lives. Her classroom community is centered around communication and learning how to express ideas. One of her goals is to reach beyond traditional English classes in which students relay information mechanically. Writing is a form of self-expression, and she wants her students to have an outlet for their creativity and be inspired by what they read. Emily also served as a Summer Daycamps Assistant in the summer of 2020.