Pella Chronicle

CNHI/Southeast Iowa

January 20, 2014

Growth means change for Mahaska Co. conservation

OSKALOOSA —

The Mahaska County Conservation Board is outgrowing its facility at the Russell Wildlife Area and fund-raising efforts continue for a new environmental education center at Caldwell Park on the east side of Oskaloosa.

Mahaska County Conservation Board Director Dave Sedivec spoke to the Oskaloosa Rotary Club Tuesday about the center and its fund-raising effort. As the popularity of MCCB environmental education programs continues to grow, the conservation board needs a new facility to meet its needs.

“We've been able to accomplish so much with less,” Sedivec said. “We need to expand.”

The cost for the new facility and its landscaping is estimated to be about $3.5 million, Sedivec said.

The main floor of the environmental education center will be 6,100 square-feet and the lower floor will be 6,000 square-feet, according to diagrams distributed to Rotary members.

As a comparison, the wet lab on the main floor will be 1,320 square-feet — the same size as the entire facility at the Russell Wildlife Area, Sedivec said.

The Russell Wildlife Area facility was built in 1986 and was then a state-of-the-art facility. Although the MCCB is building a new facility at Caldwell Park, the Russell Wildlife Area building will still be used.

The Russell Wildlife Area building will be the maintenance headquarters. It also will still be the home to fossil programs and the Youth Outdoor Field Day, Sedivec said.

“Russell won't be abandoned,” he added.

As a rule of thumb, once about half of the funds for a building project are raised, construction can commence, Sedivec said.

“I'd like to break ground in 2015,” he said.

Sedivec said Mahaska County has pledged $140,000 for the new education center. The non-profit group Friends of Mahaska County Conservation are also raising funds for the environmental education center.

Sedivec said the conservation board has received letters of support from all Mahaska County communities, school districts and conservation organizations. The facility will be open to the general public and conservation board officials envision it to be a regional facility. Sedivec said that education programs draw people from the Pella area as well as the Twin Cedars school district.

Another advantage is that the center will be located on a paved road — Highway 92, Sedivec said.

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