SOUTH BELOIT — The groundbreaking for the Nature at the Confluence Environmental Learning Center and Campus was held this morning at 306 Dickop St.
The theme of the ceremony was "Planting Seeds of Renewal," and those in attendance were given the opportunity to sow those seeds at the Confluence, which is the area where the Rock River and Turtle Creek meet.
The 2,250-square-foot center is planned to open in the summer of 2017. It will feature a large meeting room, staff office space and bathrooms.
Nature at the Confluence is an initiative of Beloit 2020, in cooperation with the City of South Beloit, to transform the area into a community space to celebrate the natural and historic significance of the land. Over the next several months, Phase I work will transform the property into an outdoor recreation and education area that will provide nature-based programs for people from the area and the region.
Further developments in the comprehensive Confluence plan are anticipated in the future.
Superintendent of the Prairie Hill School District Wes Heiar said he was excited about the opportunities this center will provide.
"We have an environmental club with over 100 members, and we love our kids to get exposed to nature through a center like this. The location is great," said Heiar.
Beloit 2020 has worked over the last three years to raise funds to acquire property in the area. All funds for the project have been donated to Beloit 2020 by members of the organization and their families, as well as the Beloit Foundation.
The cost to acquire the property for the ConfluencecCampus was approximately $500,000 and the cost for the development of the Environmental Learning Center is estimated at $1 million.
Hagen Harker of Mid-States Concrete Industries of South Beloit said he was encouraged by the cooperation between the cities of Beloit and South Beloit on this project.
"This is quite an opportunity to connect our two great states. When communities come together, great things can happen," said Harker.
Beloit 2020 also has established a $1 million endowment fund to sustain education programing at the center. Donors will be recognized for their contributions at the grand opening of Nature at the Confluence in 2017.
Representatives from Angus-Young Associates and Ayres Associates were on hand at the groundbreaking ceremony to talk about the education center project. Locally sourced building materials that have been designed for this project by Mid-States Concrete Industries were also on display.
South Beloit Mayor Ted Rehl said the early morning fog falling over the ceremony was the perfect metaphor for a project that he believes will shed light on the community.
"The fog is raising, and when it does, you are going to see something spectacular," said Rehl.