Officials of the Sandusky County Park District anticipate advertising in the next two weeks for contract bids for constructing a nature center building at Creek Bend Farm Park.
Steve Gruner, director of the park district, said the planned 4,000-square-foot. $1.5 million facility will likely be open by September or October 2014 at the park, which is located in the Village of Lindsey.
“It’s going to be a busy year,” he said. “We’re going to be on an aggressive schedule to get this up and going. Our fundraising efforts are going to continue in earnest through March. If we need to continue after that we will but we hope to have it completed by then.”
Gruner credited a two-pronged fundraising effort for getting the project off the drawing board.
“The park district board over the last 10 years has been setting aside money and committed half of the $1.5 million,” he said. Those funds came from rental fees, donations and revenue from wetland mitigation projects.
Once the district reached its goal of earmarking $750,000 for the project, it then launched a public fundraising campaign and last August announced Joe and Sharon Wilson, of Clyde, were donating $100,000 toward construction costs.
As of last week, Gruner said, the district has received about $421,000 in public donations and pledges, including the Wilson’s donation, which is one of the largest cash donations in the 40-year history of the park district.
The building will contain a classroom and the park district has been consulting with the administrations of area school systems to ensure the room design is compatible with the science curricula of the schools. In addition, the center will house a library, window on wildlife room, open and covered decks, an exhibit area, office and restrooms.
Gruner said the center will enable the district to display more than 100 taxidermy specimens and offer hands-on nature programs for clubs and organizations as well as provide a base for the district’s volunteer programs.
Hal Hawk, president of Crown Battery Manufacturing Co., and his wife, Diane, are donating $50,000 for the classroom and Gruner said the park district received a donation of $50,000 Thursday from the Knight-Baldwin Charitable Fund.
The family of Glenn Maddy, a retired county extension agent, and his late wife, is pledging $25,000 in their name for a children’s activity area and Community Health System is pledging $10,000 for a nature trail.
Gruner said he’s been meeting with The Collaborative, a Toledo architectural firm, on the final design plans.
The park covers 310 acres and the nature center will sit close to Muddy Creek.
The impetus for a nature center at the park came from public meetings in 2004 followed by a planning process that gathered comments and ideas from hundreds of county residents. Community surveys indicated there was support for nature programs and displays.
In a separate project, about eight years ago, the district restored a timber-frame barn on the park property and it plans to restore another barn at the site this spring.