The construction of Hartley Outdoor Education Center was well underway in 1975, costing the Saginaw Intermediate School District $365,000. In the original article, the journalist explains to Saginaw County residents that Hartley is just one and a half miles west of St. Charles and will contain a large activity room, dormitories to accommodate 100 students, complete kitchen facilities, classrooms, a nature museum, and caretaker's quarters. In 1975, Hartley's purpose was to offer students and teachers from Saginaw County school districts the opportunity to experience nature's "outdoor" classroom. While that remains the same today, Hartley continues to grow and diversify its offerings for students all over the state.
With 300 acres of natural habitat, including hardwood forests, wetlands, meadows, ponds, and a creek, Hartley is home to the Coal Mine No. 8 Historical Site & Museum, Schroeder Log Cabin, Fowler One-room School, Murphy Farmhouse, Henige Log Cabin, Murphy Farm Learning Center, and a future Net Zero Greenhouse. Hartley is also the site of Saginaw County’s only identified Nature Preschool, Murphy Farm, in partnership with Saginaw ISD’s Head Start programs.