Pavilion to give Nature Center an ‘outdoor classroom’

       A pavilion to serve as an “outdoor classroom” is planned for construction near the Bear Creek Nature Center this summer.
       The open-air facility will be similar in appearance and size to the public pavilions in Bear Creek Park, with a 36-foot-diameter hexagonal roof over a concrete pad, 10 picnic/activity tables, and water and electricity.
       The difference is that, unlike the public pavilions, the Nature Center's will be available for rental only by schools or other educationally minded groups. The hope is to provide additional options for more than 50,000 school-aged children who annually visit Bear Creek and Fountain Creek Nature Center (for which a pavilion is also planned), as well as various classes, camps, projects, training and special events.
       The plan came in response to a “lot of demand” for such a facility, according to Paula Lydon, County Parks development coordinator. “There will be a laundry list of uses, from an actual classroom, secondary to the Nature Center, to activities like showshoeing classes or collecting insects,” she said. “It will be a starting point for all those activities.”
       “These new covered outdoor teaching stations will allow our nature centers much needed outdoor classroom space throughout all four seasons,” writes Donna Scheeter, the centers' superintendent of interpretation. “Also, for the first time in the history of our nature centers, children who participate in field trips (will) have a covered shelter in which to eat their picnic lunches.”
       The Bear Creek Nature Center pavilion will be built on mostly flat ground a few hundred feet northeast of the center itself. The center is a staffed facility, open Tuesday through Saturday, that provides displays, offices and space for inside programs year- round.
       Pavilion construction is expected to start in July, Scheeter said. The work will also include planting low-water, indigenous landscaping around the open-air building.
       The $75,000 for both centers' pavilions is being paid with a combination of $20,000 in County Parks conservation trust (lottery) money and fund-raising by the non-profit El Paso County Parks Naturalist Docent Organization, according to Scheeter and Lydon.
       The docents are more than 100 trained volunteers who have been raising money for the pavilions since the Bear Creek Nature Center was rebuilt in 2002 from an arson fire that had destroyed the original building, Scheeter said.
       A $35,000 grant has also been requested from Greater Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), which, if granted, would ease the fund- raising load for the docents, Scheeter explained.
       A decision from GOCO officials is expected in June, but construction will go forward in any case, she said.
       The Bear Creek Nature Center started 29 years ago as “Colorado's first nature center,” Scheeter said. Located at 245 Bear Creek Road, the center is just south of the intersection with Lower Gold Camp Road and 26th Street.

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