Weather Forecast


Group seeking funds for new center at Minn. refuge

ROCHERT, Minn. — After seven years of talking and four years of working, the new Discovery Center at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge is coming to fruition.

The walls are up, roof on and windows in at the center. And heating, electrical and sheetrock installation are all scheduled for next week.

However, the building — intended to enhance education of Tamarac’s great outdoors — is far from done and far from paid for.

The Friends of Tamarac, an all-volunteer organization dedicated to enhancing the refuge and the entity responsible for the facility’s creation, is falling about $95,000 short of what it will take to finish the roughly $600,000 project.

“We’re busy calling around to different people hoping to get some donations,” said Ron Jenson, president of the Friends of Tamarac.

Jenson said they have some pledges they hope will come through to reduce the deficit by several thousand, but he expects the group will not meet its original goal of having the facility paid for by summer’s end.

“So now we’re hoping for the beginning of the year,” he said, adding that the group’s Toast of Tamarac fundraiser is coming up Sept. 12, and that’s expected to raise at least some money.

Jenson said he and the other “friends” have been pleased by the $10 and $20 donations that continue to come in through the newly reopened visitors center, and are excited about the fact that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to help with some of the finishing touches.

Although the agency is not allowed to donate money to a particular group, it is allowed to participate in projects.

“Once we’re completely done with the building, then we’ll hand it over to Fish and Wildlife, and they’ve agreed to do all the landscaping, which can be quite expensive, and they’ll do the well and a handicapped-accessible trail,” Jenson said.

He said the Friends of Tamarac are also busy trying to make themselves more visible throughout the community to raise awareness and, hopefully, money.

“We’ll get it — it’ll just take a little longer than we thought,” he said, adding that the group is determined to open its education program by winter.

What the center                           will offer

As more and more kids become “plugged in” to technology, local educators seem to view Tamarac as a unique opportunity to get them outdoors.

“We’re up to around 3,000 to 3,500 school kids who come every year,” Jenson said.

The Discovery Center will be an education hub that keeps kids and nature together at Tamarac. The building will include a multipurpose meeting room, storage and restrooms. The group is also paying to have Wi-Fi installed.

, so that students can use their iPads at the facility to enhance their learning experience.

The 50-kid classroom center will provide a spot for students to be if weather is harsh.

Outside will be an amphitheater with benches around it and a large compass in the middle. “So they can all know their directions,” Jenson said, adding that branching out from there will be four complete instruction areas outside and at least five other activity stations spread into the trees.

It’s mostly volunteers who provide these experiences for students. The Friends of Tamarac typically put in about 1,500 hours a year of their own time.

“But once you have that experience with a youngster in the woods, and see their smiles and what happens, it’s transforming, and it’s pretty hard to say no,” Jenson said.