Wild Bear Nature Center’s way in the nature

Wild Bear Nature Center in downtown Nederland wants to move into the nature of Mud Lake Open Space. But former mining at this site made their property uninhabitable.

The meeting with the Sustainability Advisory Board on Thursday, September 28, at the Community Center in Nederland was one step further for Wild Bear on its way to establish a new nature center facility at Mud Lake. Plans to build a permanent, privately owned station after 22 years of hopping from one interim facility to the next, go back to the year 2001, when Wild Bear purchased its own 5 acres at Mud Lake from Boulder County.

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Wild Bear’s site at Mud Lake is now dominated by a large sink hole. [annehennig]

Backed by a grant of Great Outdoors Colorado in 2007, they ordered the architectural drawings for a zero-energy house and had already received the approvals of the conceptual design. Then a 30-foot sink hole opened on the proposed site at the north-east corner of Mud Lake. “We decided, this might not be the right site for a place, where families and kids are around,” said Jill Dreves, director and founder of Wild Bear Nature Center.

Mud Lake Open Space was a former mining-site for tungsten that became a trash dump, before Wild Bear recruited more than 130 volunteers in the year 2000 to clean the site up. The wetland is owned by Boulder County, the town of Nederland (since 1999) and Wild Bear.

Given the uninhabitability of the site, Wild Bear is now negotiating with Boulder County to swap its currently owned 5 acres to a buildable, same sized site on the south-east corner of Mud Lake. “The County is super-super supportive”, said Dreves, “But we also need the support of the community.”

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The area Wild Bear owns is surrounded by mining sites [Wild Bear Nature Center]

The new site has several advantages. “At first, there are no Tungsten mining sites,” said Dreves laughing. But the facility will also have its own parking lot, which will create extra parking space for hikers and visitors of Mud Lake. Furthermore, they are planning to connect existing trails from town with the hiking trails at Mud Lake, which will be an asset for the neighborhood as well. Plus, the new site would be in walking distance to the Elementary School, the Nederland Ice Rink and the Community Center. “This location will serve the community so much better,” confirmed Dreves.

“We are growing tremendously,” stated Dreves. Since 2010, the Wild Bear Nature program participation has grown by over 150 percent and an average of 70 guests per day visit the center that is currently located in downtown Nederland. Reba Mitchell, Education Coordinator at Wild Bear, says, the number of walk-in guests will definitely change when the center moves to Mud Lake. But she also expects that they might open up to more school groups and “more tourists that know we are here, that are travelling through, not so much walk-in.” Furthermore, a facility out of the city center could soothe the traffic situation downtown and Amy Ransom, member of the Nederland Sustainability Advisory Board, stated: “I love the idea of a nature center in the nature.”

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Wild Bear will swap its property from the NE corner of Mud Lake Open Space to the SW corner [Wild Bear Nature Center]

There are concerns as well, with the nature center being closer to the town limit. “I am worried about a town trail running up through our neighborhood,” uttered Bill Ikler, who lives near the requested site at Indian Peaks Drive. Also, worries about outdoor events in the night that might disturb the neighbors were raised. “We will never have anything amplified,” dispelled Dreves the concerns. “Then, if it is not amplified, this will not be an issue at all,” Ikler responded.

Looking in the future, Ikler asked, what kind of arrangement Wild Bear has with Boulder County and if the intended use of the site might change sometime. But Jill Dreves reassures: “There will never be anything else than a nature center.” Several agreements with the County and the town of Nederland ensure that.

Wild Bear will have another meeting with the Board of Trustees in October, before they will convene in several hearings with the County in the end of November and early December. But after this evening they can be sure: the Nederland Sustainability Advisory Board will support their proposition and the chair of the Board, Melody Baumhover, offered help, in case Wild Bear needs someone to plead for them at the hearings.

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