Building a legacy: nature center groundbreaking

Community gathers to celebrate new building

St.+Louis+Park+Recreation+superintendent+Jason+West+points+out+features+of+the+future+interpretive+center+to+community+members+at+the+groundbreaking+ceremony+April+22.+Construction+will+begin+in+May+2019.
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Building a legacy: nature center groundbreaking

St. Louis Park Recreation superintendent Jason West points out features of the future interpretive center to community members at the groundbreaking ceremony April 22. Construction will begin in May 2019.

St. Louis Park Recreation superintendent Jason West points out features of the future interpretive center to community members at the groundbreaking ceremony April 22. Construction will begin in May 2019.

Yonah Davis

St. Louis Park Recreation superintendent Jason West points out features of the future interpretive center to community members at the groundbreaking ceremony April 22. Construction will begin in May 2019.

Yonah Davis

Yonah Davis

St. Louis Park Recreation superintendent Jason West points out features of the future interpretive center to community members at the groundbreaking ceremony April 22. Construction will begin in May 2019.

Yonah Davis

As the rain ceased, community members celebrated the groundbreaking for the new Westwood Hills Interpretive Center.

On Monday, April 22, St. Louis Park broke ground on $12 million building of the new interpretive center which the city council voted to approve on May 21, 2018.

Jason West, the St. Louis Park Recreation superintendent, said the new interpretive center will feature a reinvisioned space for the community.

“We are building a new interpretive center which will have a separate exhibit space and three multipurpose rooms as well that can open up into one large space,” West said.

Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission member Peter May said he believes the new interpretive center will draw for communities.

“A lot of other communities are going to come and visit because it’s so good,” May said. “It’s going to have a lot of good programming for the school kids and other organizations.”

Community member and active nature center visitor Alison Sipkins justifies the cost knowing the building will enhance the public experience.

“As a taxpayer in this community and knowing the building is going to be energy neutral and just provides so much more for the community, I don’t have a problem with the pricetag,” Sipkins said.

Sipkins, who is the daughter of St. Louis Park 1965 class president Tom Sipkins, sees this building as an investment in environmental education which spans generations.

“I bring my nieces who are ages 4 and 7 and 9 here at least once a month for different programs and the reason I am willing to fund this is I want them to be able to come here as much as possible and for their kids and their grandkids to be able to utilize this special place,” Sipkins said.

Gesturing to the sloping path to the current nature center facility, May emphasized the importance of handicap accessibility.

“It will be handicap accessible. Right now it’s sometimes rather difficult to get people up to where the nature center is, this is going to be very accessible which is one of the highlights,” May said.

As birds chirped behind him, West spoke about the sustainability of the new interpretive center building.

“It’s called zero energy. It will be the first commercial zero energy building in the state of Minnesota,” West said. “What that means is that the amount of energy we put out, we take back in. So we will have solar panels on top and 40 geothermal wells under the parking lot that helps heat and cool our building.”

With passion palpable in his voice, West spoke about the benefit the new interpretive center will have for future generations.

“I think we are leaving a legacy, this is something that will be here for 50 plus years. That your family can come too, your children can come too and then just having children learn about nature and being engrossed in nature and actually have a facility that can accommodate all children,” West said.

West said the construction will begin in May of 2019 and conclude in March 2020.

“You can text ‘SLPMN WHMC’ to 468-311 for updates,” West said. “That’s a great way to get all the information on the project.”

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