Our Opinion: Nature center deserves the attention; Interpretive center, book project are good for the community

Published 10:19 am Thursday, December 4, 2014

We are pleased to see so much attention given of late to the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center. The longtime Austin treasure is fulfilling its conservation mission and improving its ability to educate and enlighten through a variety of projects.

The nature center grabbed headlines last year when Executive Director Larry Dolphin announced the need for a new visitor center, now renamed an interpretive center. Nature center staff had sound reasoning: electrical issues surfaced last year, the building was in the Austin Municipal Airport’s flight path, and they were running out of space.

This artist’s rendering shows an aerial view of the future Jay C. Hormel Nature Center interpretive center.

This artist’s rendering shows an aerial view of the future Jay C. Hormel Nature Center interpretive center.

With a $5 million grant from the Hormel Foundation, $500,000 in capital funds from the city of Austin and hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations, the nature center is poised to make a new interpretive center a reality in the fall of 2016. What’s more, nature center staff hope to raise at least $300,000 for exhibits and displays which the nature center can use to engage and teach visitors about local ecology.

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This is an important mission, for myriad reasons. As society spreads, habitats and wildlife have disappeared at an alarming rate. We’ve all seen prairies and wetlands disappear over the years even in our corner of Minnesota. Austin has been blessed with an organization dedicated to preserving our local environment ever since the 1970s, and the new interpretive center will mean the nature center can keep with the times to do even more work.

The nature center will soon spread its mission as well. The Austin Parks and Recreation board gave its approval on Wednesday for a book project that will highlight the nature center’s ecology and history in a coffee table-style book. That will undoubtedly prove to be a valuable resource for the nature center moving forward and we are glad to see such a project done in our area.

We wish nature center staff continued success in their endeavors to educate people on the environment and look forward to the grand opening of the new interpretive center in 2016.