As the year draws to a close, the Winnebago County Conservation Board would like to update everyone on the progress we’ve made this year on the Environmental Education Center.
The effort to build a nature center in Winnebago County actually began back in 2012 with the formation of the Friends of Winnebago County Conservation Foundation, Inc. We had a goal of someday building an environmental education center in the county and knew creating a nonprofit foundation would be the best way to eventually raise money for it.
The Foundation has sold memberships and held fundraisers so, when the Conservation Board decided it was time to move forward with the Center, the Foundation was able to help pay for some of the preliminary architectural work, as well as provide $12,000 of seed money. The Conservation Board itself was also able to pledge $225,000 of non-tax money, most of which will come from easement payments.
The public portion of the Campaign then began in June. Since it began, we are happy to announce we have received 139 donations totaling over $109,000 from individuals and local businesses, including in-kind donations. We have also received eight grants totaling $97,180. In addition, we have at least a dozen other grant applications submitted we’re waiting to hear back from. All totaled, we have raised over $443,000 of the $1.2 million dollars we are hoping to raise for the Center.
Almost three-fourths of the counties in Iowa now have a nature center. These facilities provide wonderful educational opportunities for school groups, youth groups, families, and other county residents, as well as visitors and tourists, thanks to their interactive exhibits, educational programming, and events. They also provide convenient locations for local civic groups to meet. Wherever they are located, they educate people, enhance the local quality of life, and bring in tourist dollars.
The Winnebago County Environmental Education Center will be located just south of the north junction of Highways 9 and 69, north of Leland. It will be centrally located and will replace the Conservation Board offices at Thorpe Park which, unfortunately, are quite small and not very accessible, especially in the winter. The new building will be a 40’ x 96’ post and beam building with 28’ high vaulted ceilings, will meet ADA specifications, and will include a combination of solar and geothermal energy. In addition to offices, it will also include a large program/meeting room, an exhibit area, a workshop/activity area, a staff meeting room, and a kitchenette.
No tax dollars will be used for the construction of the facility, so we are depending largely on donations from local individuals and grants to accomplish this goal. And, with the wonderful support we’ve received so far, the Winnebago County Environmental Education Center will truly belong to all the citizens of Winnebago County.
Anyone wishing to contribute can learn more about our Capital Campaign, including how to donate to it, at our web site: www.winnebagoccb.com. People can also contact the Winnebago County Conservation Board at 641-565-3390 for more information about the Center and possible ways to donate. The Friends Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit foundation, so all donations are tax-deductible. As a result, the end of the year would be a great time to contribute.
We’re hoping that we’ll be able to break ground sometime in 2019, with a Grand Opening in 2020. With continued support for this project, we’re confident that we’ll be able to keep that timeline.