SPRING Project History
The SPRING (Sanctuary Protection and Renewal Into the Next Generation) Project is an attractive, renewed natural zone in the seven-acre gateway area of the Springbrook Nature Center (SNC). The SPRING Project provides:
- Greatly improved environmental and science education capabilities
- Improved facilities to host community and private events
- Enhanced, enriching outdoor experiences
The SPRING Project was envisioned many years ago by the Springbrook Nature Center Foundation (SNCF) Board of Directors and then SNC Director, Siah St.Clair. Through continuous efforts of planning, fundraising, designing, and then several years of construction, the project was completed in early 2020. Key features include a greatly improved INTERPRETIVE CENTER, an array of clever, new EDUCATIONAL EXHIBITS, an inviting NATURE BASED PLAY AREA, an attractive PAVILION ACTIVITY CENTER, a spacious AMPHITHEATER, and several pleasing OUTDOOR AMENITIES.
The project utilizes green building practices and many sustainability features such as LED lighting, geothermal heating, and air conditioning, porous hardscapes, bird-safe windows, a roof garden, and recycled materials. Funding included a $5 million grant from the State of Minnesota plus $2.5 million raised by the SNCF including many cash and in-kind gifts.
The INTERPRETIVE CENTER is composed of 8,000 sq ft of new construction plus the 5,000 sq ft of pre-existing building rehabbed. Key new features are four classrooms, a catering kitchen, an attractive reception area, a pleasant welcoming entrance and halls, expansive glass viewing areas, an attractive office area, and an expanded exhibit area. Many spaces are suitable for educational, community and private events.
The OUTDOOR AMENITIES include an expanded parking area, rerouted trails, improved signage, new benches, and an 85th Avenue earthen berm.
The EDUCATIONAL EXHIBITS, made possible by company and private donors, feature nature and sustainability, crucial to the educational component of the SNC Mission. Exhibits range from hands-on to high-tech styles, largely related to important environmental subjects. Live snakes and turtles inside plus viewing birds and small mammal wildlife outside remain key attractions.
The NATURE BASED PLAY AREA, made possible by a private donor, features materials found in nature and a terrific, fun water feature. Nature-based play encourages safe, unstructured, creative activity. It enhances physical and mental health while encouraging life-long conservation values.
The AMPHITHEATER, made possible by the Fridley Lions Club, is located on a natural hillside with a capacity of 150 to 250 people. The convenient, forested setting is superb for weddings, concerts, and other community events.
The PAVILION ACTIVITY CENTER (PAC) was created by a wonderful partnership between the SNCF, the SNC staff, and City of Fridley officials to design and construct a multipurpose facility, replacing a deteriorated 30-year-old picnic shelter. The 3,400 sq ft PAC facility includes an enclosed activities area, two restrooms, a concessions area plus an open-air picnic shelter. The PAC significantly enhances some education programs and several community activities, not well accommodated in the Interpretive Center. Funding was obtained from a Minnesota DNR grant ($150,000), a City Fridley match ($100.000), plus SNCF raised cash ($100,000) and many in-kind donations.
In conclusion, the SPRING Project is a superb example of a successful partnership between the State of Minnesota, the City of Fridley, and a highly committed group of citizens. Special recognition is due to Malcolm Mitchell, long-time SNCF Board Chair, Scott Lund, Mayor of Fridley, Donna Bahls, grant writer, Mike Maher, SNC Director, and other members of the SPRING Campaign Leadership Committee. Finally, completion of the PAC facility marks the conclusion of the twelve-year SPRING Project initiative.