Nature center expansion eyed

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 2, 2001

The acquisition of an additional 55 acres directly north of the J.

Friday, March 02, 2001

The acquisition of an additional 55 acres directly north of the J.C. Hormel Nature Center will be pursued for expansion of the nature preserve.

Email newsletter signup

The board of directors of the Friends of the J.C. Hormel Nature Center and the Nature Center subcommittee of the Austin Park, Recreation and Forestry Board decided Wednesday to seek the additional acreage.

The area in question includes 11 acres to the west and 6 acres to the east of a 2- to 3-acre former farmsite the nature center already owns. The remaining 38 of the 55 acres are to the north of the former farmsite.

The meeting comes after organizational meetings in fall 2000 and Jan. 31.

"We were very much using a shotgun approach," Park, Recreation and Forestry Director Denny Maschka said of the Jan. 31 meeting in particular.

At Wednesday’s meeting, those in attendance gathered into two groups in order to focus on land acquisition and land use issues, looking to the next 20 years in the future of the nature center. After discussions, the groups reassembled and reported on the courses of action they had decided on.

John Beckel, speaking on behalf of the board of directors of the Friends of the Nature Center, served as acting spokesman for the land acquisition group. Beckel said he will contact the owner of the land in question in the near future and hopes to have information on the purchase of the land to the north of the nature center at the March 27 meeting.

A variety of acquisition funding sources will be pursued, including federal and state grants.

Larry Dolphin, nature center director, was the spokesman for the land use group. Dolphin said the first act after acquisition of the land should be creating a wind break around the border of the acreage in question.

Afterward, in keeping with the passive use management plan, the land would be seeded to continue the oak savanna of the acreage currently within the boundaries of the nature center.

Dolphin suggested creating plots for planting specific foliage, like big blue stem, Indian grass, prairie blazing star and compass plant. These plots then would provide the expensive seeds for planting additional acreage.

One 1-acre plot cost the nature center $2,000 because of the seeds required to bring 50 species into that small space. Dolphin said he wants to avoid that cost in the future and creating seed plots would remedy that problem.

Bringing students and service groups into the project is another goal of the group.