HUDSON -- After decades of effort, the Carpenter Nature Center has broken ground on the expansion of its Wisconsin campus. A small ceremony was held due to COVID restrictions at the site at 300 East Cove Road in Hudson.
When completed, the expansion will include a visitor center, paved and mowed trails and remote teaching areas.
Here’s what to know about the project:
1. 30 years in the making
The initial land for the Hudson campus was donated more than 30 years ago, Carpenter Executive Director Jen Vieth said. Ever since, as the campus has expanded with additional land, the plan was in the works for a visitor center.
“This has been a 30-year dream,” Vieth said.
As a nonprofit though, Carpenter Nature Center’s dream depended on donations. The center had to be sure it could keep both campuses on each side of the river sustainable and stable, Vieth said. Last year, the Carpenter Nature Center was finally at that point.
Since then it has focused on community discussions to make sure the expansion would include what the community wants.
“It was a great dream 30 years ago, but you really need to make sure you’re building what people want and what they’ll use and what they’ll value,” Vieth said.
2. What the project will include
The project will include two things many teachers said were vital — indoor space and flushing toilets.
“You can’t bring a busload of kindergartners out and not have those features,” Vieth said.
Currently the 300-acre campus consists of 10 miles of unpaved trails and a port-a-potty, Vieth said.
The project will add a 5,000-square-foot visitor center. It will feature classrooms, restrooms, a visitor seating area, meet space and nature exhibit. The project will also include habitat restoration and trail work.
“It’s really a sitewide expansion project, as opposed to just plop in a building in there,” Vieth said.
One thing Vieth is most looking forward to is the family reading room, which provides a space to feel connected with nature for those who may not be able to go on the trails
“One of the things that sets Carpenter apart is we really do have programs and opportunity from almost birth all the way to a hundred years old,” she said. “So we want to make sure we’re meeting all the needs of those different groups with our visitor center, our gateway to nature.”
That is what they want the building to be, Vieth said, a gateway into nature.
“That sort of doorway where you can embark into not just Carpenter Center’s 300 protect acres in St. Croix County but also to get inspired to explore the rest of the amazing St. Croix Valley.”
3. Expanded programming, reach
The project will give greater access to what the campus offers.
The area comprises restored prairie, remnant habitat with the original plant community and plantation and natural woodlands.
“Which makes you feel like you’re way up in the northwoods,” Vieth said. “So you get to experience those multiple ecosystems and the wildlife that has been able to maintain a population.”
A big part of Carpenter Nature Center’s mission is inspiring and teaching youth. With the new project, Carpenter Nature Center will be able to explore a greater depth of programming at the site. The programs will serve as a complement to the site in Minnesota.
Vieth said she is looking forward to the opportunities the classroom and family room will provide.
“Having that space where multi generations of family members can enjoy time in nature and be outside as much as they physically can manage,” she said. “It’s just really exciting to have a building that was designed with the needs of the community in mind.”
While serving the community Vieth said they have heard people will easily travel more than 30 miles to get to a nature center.
“So it really is driving tourism right to the Hudson area,” she said.
4. Work completed in 2022
With the official groundbreaking complete, excavation will likely start just before Mother’s Day, depending on environmental conditions.
Planned completion is currently at the end of October. A grand opening will be held in Spring of 2022.
Trails will remain open during construction. Other programs, including the annual art festival in the summer, will continue.
5. A group effort
The process has raised over $3 million of its $3.5 million goal.
A large crew of people made the project possible, Vieth said, including the Heins family who donated the land, partners, companies and foundations, and volunteers.
“It really is inspiring the depth of enthusiasm for this building from everyone in the community,” she said. “We’re just so incredibly grateful and we can’t wait to have a celebration where everybody can be involved in the spring of 2022.”
Those who wish to support the project or Carpenter Nature Center as a whole can reach out on its website at carpenternaturecenter.org or call Vieth at 651-437-4359. Vieth said she is always happy to meet people at the site.