What is the timeline for this project?
There is currently no established timeline for this project. We will share more as information is available.
How will this project be funded? What is the estimated cost of the facility?
This project would require significant support from the community, which is one reason we value your input. Everything we do requires your support and this project is no different. Our goal at this time is to gather as much feedback as possible from our community and supporters so we can determine the viability of this project. If we move forward with the proposed Nature Discovery Center, we would begin a fundraising campaign to raise the amount needed. We are still working with the architect to determine the estimated costs of the Center.
Will this facility offer event space?
No, the proposed Nature Discovery Center is intended to serve as an educational facility and will not include event space. We are determined to avoid mission creep with this project. While event rentals can generate income, they also require substantial expense to operate and maintain. However, a conference room may be made available for daytime corporate gatherings, when our staff is already on-site to accommodate small groups. We might also allow partner organizations to host classes or presentations for the community. These types of programs might take place after 5 PM but would be limited to small group gatherings (not to exceed parking capacity).
Will this facility be used for school field trips?
Yes. Education programming would be a primary purpose of the Nature Discovery Center. We currently host a handful of small school groups each year but many schools require field trips that can accommodate an entire grade level at one time. A Nature Discovery Center would allow us to do that. The building will be designed to offer a variety of flexible indoor/outdoor spaces where we could divide students into break out groups to present information or activities and then lead them directly out onto our trails. For this reason, it is critical for the location to provide direct access to Land Trust trails and spaces to demonstrate a variety of environments, features, and historic content within a short hike.
People learn to love nature by experiencing it. How would classes inside a building help?
It is not our goal to host education programs that only take place inside a classroom. We are currently limited in our ability to host school field trips and provide environmental education opportunities to the community. This facility would make it possible to bring school groups to our properties and provide the community with a public space focused on highlighting our region and all of its natural treasures. Visitors to the Nature Discovery Center would certainly begin inside the facility but our goal is to inspire them and make them feel comfortable to explore beyond those walls. Our goal is to lead them out onto the trails to see it all in person because we agree that experiencing nature is how we learn to value it. For many though, nature is not inviting but instead is scary and uncertain. We hope that by creating a welcoming space we can help dissolve that reluctance to explore.
Will there be educational exhibits open to the public?
Yes. We envision visual displays and interactive exhibits that will tell the story of North Alabama’s natural world. This will be a gathering space for members of our community to learn about unique natural features and species found in our area.
Why does this facility include classrooms?
The primary purpose of this facility is to educate the community about the value of our natural world. That certainly means reaching children and students of all ages. Classroom spaces will be incorporated with input from local educators to provide everything needed to host environmental education field trips for school groups. However, when envisioning this facility we plan to create flexible spaces that will adapt to our changing needs. Classrooms may also be used for programs, lectures, and demonstrations so we can offer educational opportunities to our community beyond field trips.
Will there be an admission fee?
No. The Nature Discovery Center, like all Land Trust nature preserves, would be open to the public at no charge. The facility would provide visitors information about places to hike and enjoy nature around the area and offer interactive exhibits to learn about our natural environment. Certain education programs may require a fee to participate.
Why does the facility include administrative offices?
We hope to have welcoming faces available to greet our visitors and answer questions. While we hope to do this with the volunteer support, incorporating administrative offices into the facility allows us to ensure the building is staffed even when volunteers are not available and without the need for additional staff members. Staff members will also coordinate and manage education programs that take place at the facility.
What will the standard hours of operation be?
Land Trust offices are currently open Monday – Friday from 8 AM – 4 PM. However, we hope to staff the Nature Discovery Center while our trails are open (dawn to dusk daily) so we can greet visitors and answer questions. This would require coordinating current staff schedules as well as recruiting volunteer support. Hours may vary throughout the year (as sunrise and sunset times fluctuate). We are uncertain about some of the administrative details at this time.
Will the building be self-sustaining? Will the Land Trust have sufficient funds to maintain this facility?
A business plan to address this question will be prepared as more details are formulated about the Center. We have investigated other local, comparably sized buildings to estimate costs, such as utilities, cleaning services, maintenance, etc. The goal is to stay within range of our current monthly facility costs, and our current information indicates this is doable.
Are there any discussions/plans to incorporate green energy into the facility?
We will consider solar power and any other available options.