Sioux County Nature Center Closer to Opening

Residents of Sioux County will soon have a new spot to relax, explore, touch and learn about the area’s wildlife. The Sioux County Nature Center is currently being built on the county’s western edge in Oak Grove Park in Hawarden, Iowa. The $4.8 million project is spearheaded by the Sioux County Conservation Foundation, which has made huge strides to raise the total funds needed; it reached the $4.2 million mark in July. The Sioux County Nature Center will feature a two-story, 12,000-square-foot facility that will be used for school field trips, summer camps, nursing home visits, civic groups and families.


Sioux County Conservation Foundation is partnering with Split Rock Studio in Minneapolis to design the exhibits, which will feature hands-on experiences and educational programs. The center will also feature green spaces to encourage exercise and exploration. Parents and grandparents will be able to restore and relax on the back deck or venture out on trails.


Groundbreaking broke on the facility one year ago on August 1, 2018. As of June 2019, PR Construction had hung sheetrock in the rooms and the basement level was poured for electrical, plumbing and HVAC work. Outside, the entire building was waterproofed and backfilling was completed. Stone work was being completed and the wraparound deck was underway.


The foundation believes childhood exposure to natural settings is associated with a greater interest in environmental stewardship and ultimately with pursuing professional careers and adult hobbies connected to nature and the environment. Therefore, a nature center becomes a valuable investment helping county residents, especially our youth, appreciate what their county’s natural environment has to offer. The Gilchrist Foundation believes in this mission as well. That’s why we’re proud to support projects like this and donated $75,000 towards it in 2018.


The Gilchrist Foundation was established by Jocelyn Gilchrist in December 1998 to honor her family and further their interests, like wildlife and conservation. Each spring charities whose missions and interests match those of the Gilchrist Foundation are invited to submit applications for one of three types of grants: capital campaign grants, endowment grants or special projects. The emphasis is on fostering the long-term viability of the charity and enabling special projects rather than supplying short-term operating funds. Interests considered for funding include wildlife and conservation, arts and public broadcasting and disaster relief.


The grant selection for 2019 is now complete, but tax-exempt organizations that promote the arts, wildlife or conservation may submit a grant request for a micro grant at any time.