Naperville park district hiring soon for first staffed nature center
As goats chomp away at invasive plants on the future site of the expanded disc golf course at Knoch Knolls, Naperville Park District is continuing to work toward the completion of a staffed nature center at the park.
Powering and staffing the 5,000-square-foot nature center were among topics discussed when the park board met Thursday night.
Commissioners gave preliminary approval to spending roughly $27,000 to bury the ComEd power lines at the park to improve aesthetics and help with site drainage and layout.
Eric Shutes, director of planning, said there is room within the park improvement project's $5.5 million budget to add the cost of power line burial as a change order to be approved at a later meeting, and commissioners said the cost sounded reasonable.
The project will create a nature center focused on "Celebrating Water" to be housed in an eco-friendly building that will seek platinum status in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design from the U.S. Green Building Council. On a 224-acre park that includes the confluence of the east and west branches of the DuPage River, the new nature center will include two classrooms and an exhibit space with a river aquarium, graphic displays featuring the types of fish found in the river and an interactive watershed map.
Other improvements to Knoch Knolls, at 336 Knoch Knolls Road in south Naperville, will add connections to the trail system, renovate a canoe launch on the river, double the length of the disc golf course from nine to 18 holes, and construct an 87-space permeable paver parking lot slightly further from the west branch of the river, Shutes said.
As the building begins taking shape, Brad Wilson, director of recreation, said the park district is beginning to interview for a nature center manager. He said the district hopes to hire someone this fall so the new employee can begin developing curriculum and programs before the nature center opens next fall.
Wilson said the nature center will collaborate with the Conservation Foundation, which is headquartered at McDonald Farm across Knoch Knolls Road from the park, to teach the public about the DuPage River watershed and preserving the environment.