Nature center plans approved

-Submitted image
This rendering shows what the nature center and surrounding waterfront recreational area could look like when completed.

A new Riverfront Conservation Education Center in Fort Dodge’s Central River District is one step closer to becoming a reality.

Plans for the nature center were approved by the Webster County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, allowing the project to go out to bid.

The project includes a 13,000-square-foot nature center building featuring exhibit space, classrooms and administrative offices for Webster County Conservation. Outside, the nature center will have a natural playscape, fishing overlooks to the Des Moines River, an outdoor classroom, river access and other amenities being coordinated with the city’s Riverfront Park project where Central Avenue meets the Des Moines River, Matt Cosgrove, director of Webster County Conservation, told the board.

The project is a joint venture of the Fort Dodge and Webster County governments.

Cosgrove presented the final plans for the nature center, designed by ISG, of Des Moines, to the board on Tuesday.

-Submitted image
This rendering shows a possible design for a playscape that will sit near the upcoming nature center that will be located near the Des Moines River at the west end of Central Avenue.

The central theme of the nature center and the exhibits will be “Immerse yourself in the living story of Iowa’s water — the lifeblood that shapes our communities and our landscapes — while discovering our responsibility to protect it for the future.”

“One of the unique things about our facility is in a lot of nature centers, they try to tell a lot of stories and in ours we’re going to be pretty specific about Iowa’s water with it being located right on the river,” Cosgrove told the board in February.

The sub themes of the exhibits will focus on watershed conservation, human impact on water, local habitats, natural and local history, and water recreation.

Construction on the project is expected to begin this summer.

“This is an exciting project to move forward with,” board chair Mark Campbell said after the board approved the plans.

Cosgrove told the board that the estimated competition date for the project is October 2023.

A public hearing for the bids will be held at 10 a.m. on May 24, at the Webster County Courthouse.


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