Penn State’s nature center might be closed to the public temporarily, but there’s still a lot going on.
For the first time in its 41-year history, Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center is in the midst of a major renovation and expansion project.
The center has been closed for about a year, though construction was delayed until March due to when permitting from the state came back, said Joshua Potter, educational operations manager at Shaver’s Creek.
“Unfortunately, it made our time closed to the public a bit longer than any of us would like,” he said. “But we’re really excited about where we’ll be at the end of this process and what new opportunities it will create for our programs and the public.”
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The first phase of construction is slated to be complete by late January, Potter said.
It includes a new maintenance building, a renovated visitors center with a new administrative wing and a two-classroom building that can open up into one large space, he said.
Some landscaping and parking lot repaving will happen in the spring.
It’s been a long time coming, Potter said, as the nature center’s program offerings and success of its programing has “really grown a lot” in the past decade or two.
“There was never going to be a good time,” Potter said, “because we really don’t have much down time here at the center.”
A lot of different types of groups can be using the facility at once, so the capacity of the site wasn’t meeting the center’s needs, he said.
The overall budget for the first phase is $5.8 million — $3 million of which came from Penn State Outreach and Online Education.
Potter said the project has also received a lot of local support from its fundraising efforts.
The center is also looking at building a new upper classroom, possibly starting in the spring, and updating its raptor enclosures in the next year or so, he said.
And through it all, Shaver’s Creek has still been busy.
While the center’s 10,000 yearly drop-in visitors haven’t been able to come around and two cycles of the two big on-site festivals have had to be canceled, Shaver’s Creek is still teaching its more than 35 Penn State classes, taking its animals to different programs around the state and bringing educational programs to classrooms, Potter said.