It all started as the Dickinson County Conservation Board staff members met about what displays needed finished up in the spring of 2015.
That’s when our director said he had a dream to have a bridge in the nature center that people could cross. It seemed simple, but put a bunch of creative and excited people in a room and you tend to dream beyond the simple.
That bridge turned into a wetland, which then had a crawl-through fox burrow. And if you’re going to crawl through, why not add a place that everyone could walk through, like a cave?
Thus was born the indoor wetland complex at the nature center.
Construction began with 2-by-4s, and then chicken wire was added. That chicken wire was stuffed with hundreds and thousands of balls of recycled paper. Then everything was covered with spray foam. The spray foam was covered with a paper-mache-type process that included strips of burlap being dipped in a mixture of grout, paint, glue and water.
The outside of the wetland complex was completed in 2015 before the summer season began, but the cave was not ready, so it was blocked off for the year.
Construction on the cave continued this winter, and on Friday, Feb. 26, it was done.
You can’t imagine the elation that one feels when a project a year in the making finally comes to fruition, and it’s just as neat as what you had hoped.
There are bats hanging from the cave ceiling, a display with a taxidermied bat and bat skeleton, an interactive display about uses for bat guano (feces) and a large poster detailing information about bats in Iowa. Sound effects help put you in the cave mood even more.
As people crawl through the fox burrow or walk through the bat cave, we hope they have a blast and want to come back to the nature center again and again. We hope that they learn about bats in Iowa and experience what it’s like to build a leafy nest for your fox babies in the burrow. We hope they enjoy crossing the bridge and watching the painted turtle go about her business in the wetland.
As spring arrives and our visitor numbers pick up, we are excited for everyone to see all that we have been working on this winter!