Nature Center receives donation

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 19, 2002

A warm late-summer's evening, the comfortable surroundings of the Ruby Rupner Auditorium, music and laughter and Alice the Great Horned owl.

Also, a check for $19,975 to help keep things near-idyllic at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.

A representative of the Bernice Berg estate presented a check for $19,975 to the Preserving Our Legacy fund drive. The donor was a retired educator, who worked as a volunteer at the Nature Center for many years and into her mid-80s. She died earlier this year at the age of 96.

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On Monday night, the Preserving Our Legacy overseers, board members of the Friends of the Nature Center organization, formally accepted the donation at their regular meeting.

The goal of the 210 acres land acquisition and restoration fund drive is to raise $750,000.

According to Dave Cole and John Beckel, co-chairs of the land acquisition project, more than $130,000 has been raised to date.

"The land acquisition fund drive is going well," said Cole. "We are very pleased and we appreciate all the donations."

"Our variety show fund-raiser on Sept. 29 should also help. We have some excellent talent lined-up to entertain the crowd that night and we are looking forward to other fund-raising projects in the works," Cole said.

The Berg estate contribution is one of the largest given to the Preserving Our Legacy fund-drive. When pledges and actual cash-on-hand are tallied, the total exceeds $130,999 and fund-drive co-chair Beckel is confident more will be donated.

"I think we are all well-pleased with where we are at wit the fund-drive at this time," said Beckel. "We still have a long way to go, but this is a good start."

Beckel also said, fund-raising efforts are actual ahead of the pace set to raise enough money to acquire the first parcel of land.

Kinstler and friend

Larry Dolphin, naturalist and director, and Joe Dever, summer intern, greeted guests with bird calls and fiddle music to set the stage for a special program.

Then, Karla Kinstler and Alice took the center stage of attention.

Kinstler is a naturalist at the Houston Nature Center and does many educational programs in schools in southeastern Minnesota.

Alice, a Great Horned owl has imprinted with humans, who raised her almost since birth. She helps Kinstler bring nature up close and personal to the curious wherever the pair go.

Kinstler's program was done "game show style" to the delight of a large audience of adults and children assembled in Ruby Rupner Auditorium.

However, the program took on an ultra-serious tone, when both Kinstler and Dolphin discussed the spreading West Nile disease virus.

With an audience that included several members of the Austin Audubon Society, co-sponsors with the Nature Center of the free program, there was no more wildlife-friendly or habitat-concerned audience.

According to both naturalists, the virus is threatening all birds of prey, including those held in captivity at nature centers and wildlife preserves.

"It's spreading so fast, it's unbelievable," said Kinstler.

Lee Bonorden can be reached at 434-2232 or by e-mail at