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Fundraising to begin for Forest Exploration Center

July 27, 2011

The state has budgeted $145,000 in seed money for the Forest Exploration Center, 67 acres of urban woodland on the County Grounds to be used for educating the public about the role forests play in their lives.

However, the money comes with certain conditions, said Tom Gaertner, member of the center board.

A full-time executive director must be hired by July, 2012. The state Department of Natural Resources owns the property, but it was mandated that a nonprofit organization operate the facility. A part-time director has worked remotely from Ohio, but his contract is nearly up and the board is mounting a candidate search.

The DNR must approve a written management plan and the center must at minimum be able to match the seed money. So far, the center has raised $130,000, Gaertner said.

That means the board will embark on a fundraising campaign seeking dollars from the community, major donors and sponsors. It also will look for opportunities to get grant money.

The board was waiting for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District to finish its neighboring flood detention ponds. During the construction, Forest Exploration Center property was used as a staging area.

When access is granted to the site, the board can start looking at programming.

Conceptual plans for the center call for indoor and outdoor classroom and performance space, a sawmill, a viewing tower and a 60,000-square-foot building.

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