Millbrook Marsh Nature Center is growing.
In 2011, Phase I of the Spring Creek Education Building at the nature center opened with financial support from the Centre Region municipalities, among others.
College Township contributed $80,000 for Phase I, Jen Shuey, Millbrook Marsh advisory committee chairwoman, told College Township Council at its meeting Thursday.
The nature center is located in the township building’s backyard.
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The community has come a long way in developing the vision of Millbrook Marsh, and Phase II of the education building and a new welcome pavilion are just on the horizon, Shuey said.
Millbrook Marsh has seen “exponential” growth in use, visitors and programming, she said.
The nature center had 14,000 visitors in 2016, she said.
And that number doesn’t even include those out for casual strolls on the boardwalk.
With that growth, Shuey said, comes the need to update the education building.
The vision for Phase II includes a community classroom that can accommodate 100 to 120 people and can be used in all seasons; adding restrooms; and permanent space and storage for the Puddle Jumpers preschool program, she said.
An expansion would allow for multiple groups to use the education building at the same time, Shuey added.
Cost projects are still being refined, she said, but it’s looking like the education building update will cost about $1.5 million.
Millbrook Marsh intends to apply for a $350,000 state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grant, which would require a match, Shuey said.
She said the nature center has $161,000 of that match ready to go, so they’re seeking $189,000 in pledges from Centre Region municipalities over the next five weeks.
The grant deadline is April 12, she said, but there’s some wiggle room if contributions come in after that date.
The plan would be to raise the remainder of the funds through the community, she said.
If the funds can be secured, construction would likely begin in the spring/summer of 2018 and be completed in a year, Shuey said.
Carla Stilson, council vice chairwoman, said she walked through the marsh to get to the meeting, and it’s “near and dear” to her heart.
The township is proud of Millbrook Marsh and will do whatever it can to support it, said Rich Francke, council chairman.
The timing isn’t great though, he said, because the township committed $125,000 (with the option of an additional $25,000) to ClearWater Conservancy’s Slab Cabin Run Initiative.
Shuey asked council to consider committing $100,000, as a stretch.
Splitting that over three years would be the best way to budget it, said township Manager Adam Brumbaugh.