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Heery Woods Nature Center Plans for Expansion

The Butler County Conservation Board and Friends of Heery Woods Nature Center would like to announce plans for the Expansion of Heery Woods Nature Center. Located on the south side of Heery Woods State Park, Heery Woods Nature Center was completed in 1989 and was designed to serve as part of the Environmental Education and Outdoor Recreation Program of the Butler County Conservation Board. In addition to a place to provide programs, the exhibit area at Heery Woods Nature Center was to serve as a natural resource-based tourist attraction for Butler County.

The original design of the Nature Center included an office for the Naturalist, a small meeting room, restrooms, exhibit area, a work room with access to live animal displays, and a small storage and utility room. Programs at the Nature Center quickly became popular with both schools and the public. During the first 5 years, staff presented 635 programs for more than 18,000 participants and more than 9,000 visitors interacted with the Nature Center’s exhibits.

Now, 30 years after opening, Conservation Board Staff has provided more than 5,230 programs to nearly 160,000 participants. Program audiences have included school groups from Aplington-Parkersburg, Clarksville, Dike-New Hartford, Hampton-Dumont, Nashua-Plainfield, North Butler, and Waverly-Shell Rock as well as several home school groups. Other program audiences have included Butler County youth and special interest groups, service organizations, care centers, assisted living centers, senior citizen groups, professional groups, and local and state colleges and universities. Conservation Board Staff has also provided many programs on a variety of topics to the general public.

Heery Woods Nature Center has done well serving as a natural resource-based tourist attraction. Since opening, more than 58,000 visitors have interacted with the exhibits in our Discovery Room and while many of the visitors have been local, many others have come from other parts of the state and even outside of Iowa. Visitors from outside Iowa have come from thirty-three different states and seventeen countries!

Today, the Butler County Conservation Board is looking to build on the successes of the Environmental Education and Outdoor Recreation programs presented through Heery Woods Nature Center and continue to provide visitors with opportunities to learn about the natural world through interactive exhibits. To provide new program and exhibit opportunities, the Butler County Conservation Board and Friends of Heery Woods Nature Center are working together to expand the Nature Center and its exhibits. The expansion project includes the addition of a new 32’x40’ classroom and a 20’x36’ exhibit area.

The classroom addition will be located on the east end of the current building and will provide space for staff to present more public and family-oriented programs as well as providing space for winter programming for school, youth and community groups. The classroom will include open space for hands-on programs and activities and a projector and sound system that will allow for audio-visual presentations. A small kitchenette will be used for programs such as wild edibles and will allow staff to easily clean Dutch ovens, utensils, and other items used in programs. A basement under the classroom will provide storage space for program materials and equipment.

The exhibit area expansion will provide more opportunities to change and add new exhibits to the Nature Center. Work is nearly complete on the sod house portion of the new log cabin/sod house display. When finished, the display will allow visitors to learn about life as a pioneer in early Iowa and Butler County. The log cabin/sod house is a feature in the new prairie and woodland exhibits that are planned for the nature center. Changes and updates to the wetland exhibit, a native Iowa fur display and skull learning center, and adding more reptile and amphibian displays to those already housed at the nature center are also planned. Throughout the exhibit area, activity stations will provide a variety of fun, hands-on learning opportunities for visitors, and an area of the new addition will be reserved for seasonal or temporary exhibits from outside sources such as the Iowa Association of Naturalists, the National River History Museum, and others.

With the project estimated to cost $316,000.00, the Friends of Heery Woods Nature Center and Butler County Conservation Board are working together to raise the funds through grants, fund-raisers, and private donations from organizations, businesses and individuals.

Since starting the fundraising process last November, generous grants and donations from the Meyer Trust, Kyle Family Trust, Butler County Community Foundation, Friends of Heery Woods Nature Center, Butler County REC, Corn Belt Power Cooperative, and Basin Electric Power Cooperative, $166,500 has already been committed to the project! We are hoping to raise the money needed to complete the project by July of 2020 with construction beginning in the fall of 2020. To help reach this goal, the Friends of Heery Woods Nature Center will be reaching out to area businesses and individuals to help make the Nature Center Expansion Project a reality.

If you would like learn more about the project or make a donation to help support the expansion of Environmental Education and Outdoor Recreation Opportunities at Heery Woods Nature Center please contact Steve Martin or Mike Miner at 319-278-1130 or 319-278-4237.

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