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Environmental Education Center Construction Bid Accepted

After more than four years of planning and fundraising, construction will soon begin on the Winnebago County Conservation Board’s new Environmental Education Center! The WCCB held its second bid letting on June 14th , approved Kingland Construction Services’ bid at its June board meeting and signed the final bid contract at its July meeting. So, if all goes as planned, the county will have a nature center by the end of next year!
Fundraising for the center officially began in June of 2018. At that time, based on construction estimates, the goal was to raise about $1.2 million dollars for the new building. By the end of 2020, that goal had been surpassed and bids were opened in January of 2021. Unfortunately, by then, Covid was causing major supply disruptions and cost increases. As a result, the bids all came in 30%-40% higher than anticipated and had to be rejected.
Over the next year, the WCCB made design adjustments to the building and raised more money. Finally, this past spring, the Board decided to let bids once again. Those bids also came in slightly higher than expected but, with more money now in the bank, they seemed acceptable. So, the Board accepted Kingland Construction Services’ bid of $2.297 million and signed the contract a month later. Depending upon supply issues, work schedules, and weather, the project will either begin this fall or next spring. The finish date is scheduled for December of 2023.
The building itself will be located just south of the Highway 9/69 north junction on 325 acres of prairie wetlands. It will be 7,680 square feet over two levels. The main floor will feature 28’ high vaulted ceilings, an exhibit area, a large program/meeting room with a kitchenette, and offices. The lower level will have a workshop/activity area and a meeting room, as well as a walkout to the prairie. The building will meet ADA specifications for accessibility and the two levels will be connected by an elevator.

The new Center will contain exhibits and interactive displays that will help increase people’s awareness and knowledge of our natural resources. It will also be a central location for programs and school field trips, as well as a meeting spot for local groups and organizations. In addition, it will be an attraction for people visiting Winnebago County from outside the area.
To date, the WCCB and the Friends of Winnebago County Conservation Foundation have raised about 82% of the $2.297 million dollars needed for the project, mostly through a combination of small and large donations, as well as numerous grants. They will continue to raise the remaining funds from the same sources throughout the next 18 months. And, even after construction is completed, money will still be needed for furnishings and exhibits.
So, fundraising will continue as the project is seen through to completion! People wishing to donate can go to the WCCB web site (www.winnebagoccb.com) for more information or to donate online. All donations will be recognized in the WCCB newsletter, and all contributions of $250 or higher will be recognized on a donor board in the Center. Also, since all donations go to the Friends of Winnebago County Conservation Foundation, a 501c(3) nonprofit organization, all contributions are tax deductible.
The WCCB and the Friends Foundation want to thank all the people and organizations who have already donated to this project and have helped to get it to this point! Everyone is encouraged to watch the building site and keep posted to the WCCB web site, Facebook page, and Twitter feed for updates and photos of the upcoming construction! If anyone has any questions about Winnebago County’s new Environmental Education Center, they can contact the WCCB at 641-565-3390 or WCCB Director Robert Schwartz at rschwartz@winnebagoccb.com.

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