Nature center ahead of schedule | News, Sports, Jobs

Nature center ahead of schedule | News, Sports, Jobs


-Messenger photo by Britt Kudla

Webster County Supervisor Austin Hayek, Jensen Builders site manager Craig Miller and Webster County Supervisor Nick Carlson chat while taking a tour of the progress of the River’s Edge Discovery Center on Thursday morning.

The construction site of the River’s Edge Discovery Center is beginning to look more and more like the nature center that Webster County Conservation Director Matt Cosgrove has dreamed of for years.

Construction of the $6.7 million project along the Des Moines River on First Street north of Central Avenue is about halfway completed, Cosgrove said.

On Thursday, Cosgrove and Craig Miller, site manager from Jensen Builders Ltd., gave a group of Conservation Board members, staff and Webster County Supervisors a tour of the building’s progress.

The Nature Center building will be focused on Iowa’s water resources. The center exhibit space will feature an array of exhibits on the water cycle, wetlands, glaciers and rivers and streams. Taylor Studios, an exhibition design firm out of Rantoul, Illinois, is working on building the water-themed exhibits that will be featured in the Nature Center.

“Everything’s touchable and hands-on,” Cosgrove said.

-Submitted image

This rendering shows the plans for a playscape that will be outside the River’s Edge Discovery Center currently under construction. Citizen’s Community Credit Union recently pledged $50,000 to go toward the playscape.

But before the exhibits can be installed, an artist will be painting several large murals around the space, he said.

Just off of the exhibit space are two classrooms that can be used for visiting classes or activities. Each classroom fits about 35, but a barrier between the two rooms can be taken down to expand the space. There is also a kitchenette off of one of the classrooms.

The classrooms can also be used for traveling exhibits, Cosgrove said.

Cosgrove said that Webster County Conservation is working with the local school districts to develop curriculum so schools can utilize the Discovery Center.

“So when the school is teaching certain water-related stuff, we can provide hands-on stuff here on site…Come out here and actually put your hands in the creek,” he said.

-Messenger photo by Britt Kudla

Piles of materials sit in the middle of the area that will house permanent exhibits at the River’s Edge Discovery Center.

The building will also house office space for County Conservation staff, as well as a boardroom.

Outside the building, there will be an outdoor classroom space on a patio, which will lead out to a large playscape for children. Behind the building is a deck that will overlook the river and the trail that runs alongside it.

“There will be interpretive signage that will be outside all over the trail system that will talk about wetlands and pollinators and history and all that sort of thing,” Cosgrove said.

Jensen Builders Ltd., of Fort Dodge, has a $6.7 million contract to construct the building. The county received a $4 million Destination Iowa grant from the state to help pay for it. The project is also receiving grant funding from part of a $300,000 grant awarded by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs to the Boone Forks Region, an Iowa Great Place that includes Webster, Hamilton and Boone counties.

Private monetary donations will also fund a large chunk of the cost. Webster County Conservation has secured about $410,000 of its $500,000 Connecting Kids & Nature capital campaign, Cosgrove said.

-Messenger photo by Britt Kudla

A wall of windows overlooks the Des Moines River on the River’s Edge Discovery Center, currently under construction.

“We’ve had great support from the community,” he said.

Recently, Citizens Community Credit Union pledged $50,000 for the outdoor playscape at the nature center.

Donors to the project will be recognized on a donor wall that will be displayed inside the entrance to the building.

Jensen Builders Ltd. is scheduled to have the building complete by June 2024, but Cosgrove said the project is ahead of schedule and they may be working on the exhibits and interior spaces by spring.

“It’s crazy how much has changed just since a couple weeks ago when I was in here last,” he said during Thursday’s tour.

-Messenger photo by Britt Kudla

The front entrance to the River’s Edge Discovery Center will be covered.

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