When a row of ceremonial shovels cut into the clay of the Center Swamp last Thursday morning, they were clearing the way for a new chapter in the 38-year-old Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve’s history. The bunker-like 1960s-era earth-sheltered building is gone. In its place an 18,000-square-foot, glass-encased center for nature education, energy independence, corporate and public meeting space and mental wellness will rise.
Board Chair Dennis Hultgren said what won’t change is that Bubolz will be a place for children.
Rollie Stephenson, retired CEO of Faith Technologies, a major sponsor of the project, held out hope that the woods and cedar swamp of Bubolz will move young people to put down their electronics for a time.
Faith has committed to build a “microgrid,” integrating solar and other alternative forms of energy. Mike Jansen, current Faith CEO/President, said the microgrid will make Bubolz energy independent and be a sustainable business model will attract national attention.
Eleven charitable funds within the Community Foundation have committed $220,000 to the capital campaign over the past five years. The project cost is $5 million for the nature center and an additional operations building, about $1.1 million of which has been raised. The microgrid will be constructed by Faith separate from the project cost estimate. Boldt Corp. will serve as general contractor. Completion is scheduled for Dec. 1, 2017.
The building will include meeting space available to rent for business meetings, weddings and other gatherings.
The nature center also is working with Catalpa Health for on-site programs that use the setting in nature to further mental health.
Organizers turned to children to end the ceremony. Students from Greenville Elementary School filed out and released native butterflies to begin the new era at Bubolz.