Today, citizens of Jasper County can get a preview of what’s to come. The Jasper County Conservation Office will host a “walk and talk” tour on the grounds of its future Environmental Education Center at 5 p.m.
The Jasper County Environmental Education Center will be located across from the former county care facility, which is also where the walk will take place. JCC Director Keri Van Zante talked about the project.
“In May 2009, we announced our intention to seek a location for a new nature and conservation education center in Jasper County,” she said. “The facility has been a longtime dream of numerous conservation board members dating back 25 years in our board minutes.”
Van Zante views the project as not just another county park but as something bigger that will benefit all of Jasper County.
“(We hope to) reach more than 20,000 people annually by providing outdoor learning experiences to students of all ages,” she said. “The Center will be a significant tourism attraction and welcome center for Jasper County, as well as a hub for promoting the use of all Jasper County Conservation areas.”
In addition to promoting the county, she sees the building as a way to showcase the benefits of a green lifestyle.
“Jasper County has defined itself though the production of renewable resources, from wind energy to biodiesel,” Van Zante said. “This education center demonstrates conservation and sustainable design through the use of photovoltaic cells, passive solar energy, geothermal and a living roof.”
Van Zante said the conservation board has just started fundraising for the project this summer and spent the last two years working on the design of the building, which boasts some impressive specs.
“The Environmental Education Center will be a state-of-the-art facility that will provide an extraordinary location for research, education, and family enjoyment,” she said. “The building is approximately 12,640 square feet and features flexible spaces, including a display area, laboratory, classrooms, storage, kitchen, outdoor viewing platform and offices. The facility will also serve as a community venue, capable of holding events for 400 people utilizing the main and lower levels.”
There also will be various attractions around the facility, including a sculpture park, amphitheater and community garden. The current estimated cost to complete the project $2.9 million. Van Zante is hoping the walk will inspire donors to be a part of the project.
“This project has been discussed for more than 25 years by past and present conservation community leaders. Now is the time,” Van Zante said.
Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.