Nature center leader mulls new building

Published 9:22 am Tuesday, October 1, 2013

AUSTIN — A new building could be in the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center’s future — eventually.

Executive Director Larry Dolphin and the Friends of the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center will go before the Austin’s Parks, Recreation and Forestry Board Wednesday to seek permission to start working toward replacing the nature center’s visitor center.

“We’re going to pursue it the best we can to make it happen,” Dolphin said.

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Plans to replace the 40-year-old visitor center are still in the early stages, as both the Parks Board and City Council must both give Nature Center officials clearance to start discussions.

If permission is granted, those discussions would first have to address where to build a new visitor center, as the existing building is in the Austin Municipal Airport’s flight path. Though the center is grandfathered, a new structure couldn’t be built in the same location, according to Dolphin. The Friends of the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center and other officials would begin discussing possibilities for the new building.

One key will be space, as Dolphin said they have limited space for programs at the existing building. Dolphin also said he’d like to pursue a green-friendly building that saves the city money through energy savings.

“For me, one of the big things is to have little or no energy consumption,” Dolphin said, though he noted he’s only one voice in the discussion.

If approved, Dolphin said the new building is perhaps two to three years down the line, though he didn’t have a specific time frame.

“It’s a process, and once we get it going we’ll see what we can do to find the dollars to get there,” Dolphin said.

Like the Ruby Rupner Center, Dolphin envisions much of the funding for a new visitor center coming trough fundraising; however, he didn’t rule out seeking grant dollars and other sources of revenue.