Plans for new Environmental Education Center progress
Over the last few years, the Winnebago County Conservation Board has been planning for the future construction of an environmental education center in the county. The first step was in 2012 when a non-profit foundation, the Friends of Winnebago County Conservation Foundation, was established to collect and raise money for projects such as an education center. Since then, the two organizations have worked together to design a nature center for Winnebago County. And, now they are ready to begin the next phase of that project—to increase public awareness of the project and begin fundraising.
The proposed site for the new center is centrally-located within the county, just south of the north junction of Highways 9 and 69. The center will be used for environmental programming for school and civic groups, as well as for the general public. It will also be a destination for tourists and will help visitors to Winnebago County learn about the valuable natural resources we have. It will also be a meeting location for local organizations and will house the offices of the Winnebago County Conservation Board. (Those offices are currently located in a small outdated building at Thorpe Park.)
The building itself will be a 7,680-square foot (40’ x 96’) wooden post and beam building with 28’-high vaulted ceilings. It will include offices, a large program/meeting room (that will seat 85-100 people), an exhibit area, a workshop/activity area, a staff meeting room, and a kitchenette. It will meet the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and will include a variety of green design elements such as geothermal and solar energy systems.
The WCCB and the FWCCF have been working extensively with Sand Creek Post and Beam and Martin Gardner Architects to design the new center. As a result, exterior drawings have been developed and interior floor plans have been designed. Perhaps most importantly, cost estimates have also been calculated and the cost of the center comes in at just over $1 million. Already, the Friends Foundation has received several large donations that have helped to finance these first important steps.
The Conservation Board and the Foundation have already organized several fundraisers, and plan to arrange more in the future, and the Conservation Board has committed money to the project, as well. But, most of the money for the new center will come from private donations, large and small, as well as various grants. Over the next few months, the WCCB and the FWCCF will be holding several public meetings throughout Winnebago County to inform people about the new environmental education center and to answer any questions people may have.
Anyone wishing to contribute to the county’s new environmental education center can contact the Friends of Winnebago County Conservation Foundation at 641-565-3390. Since the Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit organization, all gifts made to the Foundation are tax-deductible. It is the hope of these two organizations that, within a few years, Winnebago County can be home to an environmental education center to serve the citizens of the county, as well as visitors passing through.