Ground officially broken for visitors center at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center
Published 6:23 am Sunday, April 24, 2016
On the 46th annual Earth Day, the ground was officially broken for the new $7 million interpretative center at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.
Though construction has already started and is expected to be completed by Earth Day 2017, an official groundbreaking ceremony was held to thank everyone for their support, time, energy and dollars provided for this project, Director/Naturalist Larry Dolphin said.
“It has been an amazing process with all hands on deck,” Dolphin said.
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The Hormel Foundation, city of Austin, Friends of the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center, donors, staff, architectural firm and exhibit firm all contributed to either donations or contracted work for the new center.
“The nature center is about connecting all ages to the land, the water and the wildlife,” Dolphin continued. “It is about living on this planet as one.”
Hormel Foundation Chairman Gary Ray said today was an important milestone and they’re excited for the new center.
“It’s a great project for Austin,” Ray said. “We’ll establish the best nature center in Minnesota. It’s something to really be proud of.”
Ray said Jay C. Hormel would have loved the idea of Earth Day and noted he planted over 200,000 trees native to Minnesota to start the nature center.
“He would be very proud to have his name above the door,” Ray said.
He also touched on the importance of a new building and said the need for one is great.
“What’s more important, the people of Austin raised $1.2 million and that tells me we have strong support,” Ray said.
Pete Mattson, President of the Friends of the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center board, said the center will be a big draw for Austin.
“It’s going to be a really nice place and kids are going to love it,” Mattson said.
The Friends donated $1 million for the exhibits. They also fund the intern and naturalist position, pay for extra summer help, manage the land, pay for programming and buy property and turn it over to the city, Mattson said.
Mayor Tom Stiehm thanked people for their support and said when he hears other people talk of Austin, the two major icons are the Spam Museum and nature center.
“A lot of kids come here for field trips and they come back with their families,” Stiehm said. “It’s unique within itself.”
Parks and Rec Director Kim Underwood also thanked people and said the center would be there for “our future children and grandchildren.”
“Let’s make it shine,” Underwood said.
After speeches were finished, the crowd of city leaders, Friends of the Jay C. Hormel board members and past presidents, The Hormel Foundation members and nature center staff gathered outside to dig in the golden shovels.
Dolphin added the nature center hosts all of kinds of activities such as canoeing, skiing, hiking, outdoor theater, music, birdwatching, pond scooping, biking, geocaching and much more.
“The new interpretative center will embody all of that, but it mostly will be jumping off point for people of all ages to enjoy the 518 acres of prairie, woodlands, water and wildlife,” Dolphin said.
Met-Con Companies Construction Services from Faribault is constructing the building and Split Rock Studios from St. Paul will create the exhibits.
The nature center received $5 million from The Hormel Foundation, $500,000 from the city of Austin and $300,000 from Hormel Foods Corp. Residents of Austin also raised nearly $1.2 million for the center.