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Mills County Ready To Unveil New Conservation Building

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By Joe Foreman, Editor

Jerad Getter admits he and his staff at the Mills County Conservation Office are not only proud, but “pretty darn excited” about their new conservation and nature education building on the grounds of Pony Creek Park.

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“We’re thrilled to be in here and we’re excited about getting the public out here,” Getter said.

While Getter and his fellow conservation staffers (naturalist Dessa Montgomery, conservation specialist Zach Kohlhoff and grounds technician Jesse Ayers) are already working from their new offices on the east end of the building, the $1.1 million, nearly 7,000 square-foot facility will officially open to the public later this week.

In addition to housing conservation staff offices, the multi-level structure has a classroom/seminar room that can handle up to 50 people and a wrap-around deck that can be utilized as an outdoor education area. The focal point of the building, located inside the main entrance, is a gallery of displays depicting animals, birds and marine life native to the region.

“The gallery is going to be a work in progress,” Getter said. “All of our critters are native to Iowa.”
Getter said the visitor-friendly facility is going to allow the conservation program to serve a wide audience and expand its offerings of nature-related programs.

“Our goal is to have a lot more people come out to the park,” Getter said. “I think we’ll be able to do a lot more day camps.“

We’ve always wanted to have more children’s activities out here, but we just didn’t have the facilities.”

Over the past several years, Mills County Conservation has consistently increased the number of environmental educational programs it offers to the public. About 5,000 participants are taking part in Mills County Conservation programs on an annual basis and Getter expects the number to climb even higher in coming years.

Offerings range from nighttime “owl prowls” and hiking to fishing, canoeing and snake identification programs.
Getter said the indoor classroom will defintely be utilized for educational purposes, but the majority of programs will take place outdoors where participants are exposed to nature.

The basement of the new building will be used for storage and also provide a storm shelter for patrons and staff.
Funding for the nature center has come from a variety of sources - REAP (Resource Enhancement and Protection) dollars from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, grants from the Iowa West Foundation and Mills County Community Foundation, Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) revenue and $150,000 in property taxes.

Lonnie Mayberry, a member of the Mills County Board of Supervisors, said the new facility will serve the citizens of Mills County well into the 21st Century.

The county is hosting a Glenwood Area Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting at the facility Thursday morning (June 23) at 9:30 a.m.

The new nature center will also be open for the public to check out at the “Summer Extravaganza” on Friday, June 24, from 6-8 p.m. The event will feature canoeing and hot dog roasting. Pre-registration is required. Please call 712-527-9685 or email millsccbia@hotmail.com.