Wetlands’ Discovery Center nears completion

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Story by Spencer Brown, Assistant News Editor

The construction of the Baker Wetlands Discovery Center is set to be completed this spring.

“It seems to be frustratingly slow, but we’re on target,” Roger Boyd, director of natural areas and professor emeritus of biology, said. “Everything is coming out just like we thought. There are always things that pop up, but we are still under budget.”

Since the start of the construction in May 2014, much of the exterior work has been completed.

“All steel is up and some siding is completed,” Boyd said. “We will be starting on finishing the roofing and the trim [work] next week.”

Following this, the windows, heating and cooling, garage doors and electrical work will be started. The stonework, insulation, sheet rock and all finishing touches are expected to be started in early April.

“We are hoping the construction will be done in late April or early May,” Boyd said. “We are hoping to preliminarily open to the public in June, and we anticipate an official open house in September.”

Upon completion, the center will house a display area, a large and a small classroom, a gift shop, an indoor research area, and three offices, among much more.

“It’s a very large facility,” Scott Kimball, assistant professor of biology, said. “We’ll have a lot of flexibility in how we use the space.”

Aside from the construction itself, the center’s advisory committee hopes to bring more awareness to the wetlands.

“I hope that when we are finished with the site, students and the Baker community will be more aware of and engaged with the [wetlands],” Kimball said.

Before the construction, Baker students occasionally use the wetlands for hands-on experience. With the addition of the Discovery Center – funded by the Kansas Department of Transportation’s mitigation plan – students will be able to do even more of their research on-site.

“[The wetlands] are a great resource for Baker students because it allows them to go out and submerge themselves in a local, natural ecosystem,” senior Sam Richards said. “I am very excited for the Discovery Center to open because it is going to give a better opportunity for local schools to become involved in the wetlands.”

This idea, in fact, is the hope by much of the advisory committee of the new Discovery Center.

“Our target audience will be public school kids and families,” Boyd said. “But we also envision all age groups.”

Both Boyd and Kimball are also investigating opportunities in acquiring funding for a summertime program. This would include students staying on the Baker campus while traveling to the wetlands in order to conduct their research.

“My favorite aspect [of the center] is how it will serve as an opportunity for us to show what Baker has to offer,” Kimball said. “[The community] will be able to interact with Baker more directly at the site.”