Two New Environmental Education Centers to Serve As Gateways to Learning

group photoLeft: Former Governor Bob Martinez discusses environmental issues with David Moore, District executive director, and Heidi McCree, District Governing Board member and chair ex officio of the Hillsborough River Basin Board, at the Nature’s Classroom dedication. Right: Representatives of the District and Polk County broke ground together for the environmental education center at the Circle B Bar Reserve.

The District recently helped celebrate the opening of one environmental education center and the groundbreaking for another center, both of which will serve as gateways to learning about Florida’s valuable water resources.

In Polk County, District and county representatives broke ground for an environmental education center to be built at the Circle B Bar Reserve, a 1,267-acre former cattle ranch on the shores of Lake Hancock. The District and county purchased the land in 2000.

The $6.4 million center will include four buildings, totaling 16,000 square feet. Funding for the center comes from the District, Polk County and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. It is scheduled to open by summer 2008.

“The District’s involvement in helping construct these environmental education centers illustrates our commitment to teaching students about the importance of protecting our water resources and the environment,” said David Moore, District executive director. “The hands-on education students receive at these centers is invaluable.”

In Hillsborough County, the District joined the Hillsborough Education Foundation and TECO Energy in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new environmental education center at Nature’s Classroom. The environmental education complex is located on the District-owned Lower Hillsborough Flood Detention Area property. Since 1969, more than 328,000 sixth-grade students in Hillsborough County have benefited from annual environmental education field trips to Nature’s Classroom.

The 5,000-square-foot environmental education center is the latest in a series of projects being built in cooperation with the District and other financial partners. Other newly completed projects include a new welcome center and boardwalk, aviary, boat dock, restroom facility and sidewalks adjoining the educational areas. The pavilions have also been refurbished and all power lines have been moved underground. The final phase of the project will be relocating and building new animal enclosures.

In addition to donating the land for Nature’s Classroom and contributing funds for construction, the District budgets $40,000 for water resources education programs at Nature’s Classroom each year. Since 1994, the District has contributed $538,000.