Our opinion: Interpretive center will be a source of pride for Austin

Published 9:20 am Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Austin community is getting an Earth Day treat.

The new interpretive center of the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center opened to the public on Saturday, and it’s a facility that will be a source of pride for the community for many years.

Congratulations are in order to everyone out at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center and Split Rock Studios, the project’s general contractor. 

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Simply put: It’s a beautiful facility.

We got a sneak peek of the building last month for an Austin Living magazine piece — which should be available next week — and the building lives up to the vision put forth when the project was announced in late 2014.

The building is based around its educational exhibits, which  are interactive and challenge visitors to be attentive and observant.

Director Luke Reese told us the exhibits are meant to tie in and reinforce everything visitors may see during walks through the center’s habitats.

“We really want it to be a connection to what they’re going to see out on the land,” Reese told Austin Living, the magazine produced by the Herald.

Education opportunities abound in the site. Exhibits focus on each aspect of the center’s land, with exhibits on the prairie, wetlands and forests. A Creatures of the Night exhibit is sure to be a favorite, as is a large constructed cottonwood tree in the center of the exhibits.

Throughout that tree, the other exhibits and the murals of the center are animals — either painted, sculpted or taxidermied — that visitors can hunt down and try to spot, which will require the same attentiveness and curiosity visitors would need out on the center .

The early childhood room is likely to be another favorite for the many children visiting the center with a spot for bird-watching, a treehouse, a puppet theater and much more.

Through the building, nature center staff practice what they preach. The building is a model of sustainability and environmentalism.   

Back in 2014, then-Director Larry Dolphin told us they aimed to set “an example for sustainability for the future.” This building does that: It features solar energy, geothermal energy, energy-efficient bulbs, low-water toilet, bird glass— which features dots for birds to better see the glass — and much more.  And they are all explained with plaques  throughout the building to highlight the various steps to be conscious  of man’s effect on the environment.

And from talking to nature center staff, you can clearly see they took pride in this project and strove to get every detail right.

  We congratulate the city and everyone out at the nature center, and we encourage people to go see the new facility.