Heights-based NatureVation leads outdoor adventures

Gordon Landefeld and Elaine Price, founders of NatureVation.

In 1999, Cleveland Heights resident Elaine Price took an “adventure vacation” in Santa Fe, N.M. Even better than the hiking, biking and rafting was the fact that all the planning and logistics—from lodging to meals to the itinerary—were taken care of for her. While on the trip, Price found herself wondering why there was nothing similar in the Great Lakes region. “Our nature is just as great as theirs,” she reasoned. “We should be doing this there.”

The idea stayed with her until, in 2013, Price and her husband, Gordon Landefeld, founded NatureVation (a combination of the words “nature” and “innovation”), a nature tourism company that leads local adventures for individuals and groups.

“Other than showcasing the great quality of place in Northeast Ohio,” Price said, “one of our goals is to protect and preserve nature by getting people out into it. Once they’ve experienced the outdoors, they invariably fall in love with it and become ambassadors for our natural assets.” 

Guided adventures range from mild strolls to more rigorous activities. Previous outings have included kayaking and tubing on the Cuyahoga River, stand-up paddle boarding, biking the Towpath and Cleveland Foundation Centennial trails, strolling through the Rockefeller Greenhouse and Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve, and hiking at Cleveland Metroparks’ Mill Creek Falls, which, Landefeld points out, is “three times higher than Chagrin Falls.” 

In addition to the trips planned by NatureVation, custom tours for up to 13 people can be arranged. Trips are typically four to five hours long and take place all year long. Most outings are suitable for children, and the region’s dense concentration of natural places guarantees that participants never spend more than about an hour getting there.

Adventure trips start at $79 per person. Although Price and Landefeld concede that people could head out to nature themselves, they are quick to note the value their company adds.

In addition to planning the itinerary, NatureVation provides transportation from a central meeting point and supplies high-end, creative food and beverages. “Most importantly, our tours are guided,” said Price. “We can explain the natural and cultural history of the place. Northeast Ohio has an industrial heritage tied to its woodlands, valleys, creeks and streams. There’s a human history story in each trip. One of the reasons we started NatureVation was to tell these stories of innovation linked to the places we go.” 

Another benefit to the NatureVation adventures is the camaraderie that participants experience. People who start out as strangers find that they become friends during the trip. In fact, Price and Landefeld recently attended the wedding of a couple who met on the first NatureVation adventure. 

Price, a 29-year resident of Cleveland Heights, is an environmental biologist by training and served as president and CEO of Holden Arboretum from 2001-07. Landefeld, originally from Shaker Heights, has a background in geology. Married for six years, they work well together. Both praised the support they’ve received from the City of Cleveland Heights. “We got great guidance from City Planner Karen Knittel,” Price said. “She gave us all the information we needed to get up and running as a home-based business.” They’ve also taken advantage of the resources available through Heights Libraries’ Small Business Development Center. 

One perk of the job has been the opportunity to learn more about the wealth of nature in the region. Price recounted a visit to the Black River in Lorain County. “We kayaked through the old steel-mill area and saw how it had been reclaimed by nature, including a rookery of herons and a bald eagle nest. It’s incredible to witness the intense industrial heritage that is rapidly recovering due to intentional restoration efforts.

“I love that we’re discovering new places ourselves, and then sharing them with others. One of the most gratifying things is when clients tell us, ‘I’ve lived here my whole life and I never knew this place was here.’ ”

Information about upcoming trips—including winter snowshoeing adventures—can be found at www.naturevation.com.

Kari Elsila

Kari Elsila has called Cleveland Heights home for 15 years, and loves learning about all the small and home-based businesses in the Heights. 

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Volume 9, Issue 1, Posted 4:55 PM, 12.30.2015