The Dickinson County Nature Center celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

“This is such a huge milestone,” said community relations coordinator Kiley Roth. “We are so excited to celebrate a decade of environmental education and fostering an appreciation of our natural world at the Dickinson County Nature Center.”

The nature center was a dream long before it opened to the public. In 2001, the former Back Porch restaurant was moved from Wahpeton to Kenue Park in Okoboji, and fundraising ensued to renovate it. It opened to the public in June 2010.

Since that time, the nature center has undergone a variety of changes both inside and out. Interactive exhibits have been installed. Landscaping, a deck and an outdoor amphitheater were added in 2013. The Pollinator Paradise addition began construction in 2017 and new exhibits opened to the public in 2019.

Kenue Park has also undergone several changes during that time, including the addition of an osprey nesting platform, introduction of rehabilitated trumpeter swans on the wetland, construction of the Okoboji Gold Disc Golf Course, addition of the Nature Playscape, restoration of a wetland on the west side of the park and current construction of the new lodge and shelter.

“Over the past 10 years, the nature center has made some unique and wonderful changes that bring an interactive way of learning about important conservation issues to our community,” said executive director Lee Sorenson. “Our mission is always to educate people of all ages about conservation, and we feel that the nature center is an important part of that education.”

In the past decade, the Dickinson County Nature Center’s visitorship has grown tremendously, with numbers reaching more than 20,000 in 2019.

“We have seen over the past years the visitor number increase annually at the nature center, and the environmental education programs that we provide to our young children are requested more now than ever,” Sorenson said. “We are very proud of the Dickinson County Conservation Board’s accomplishments and are always working to improve for our community.”

A special celebration is planned to note this milestone 10 a.m.-noon Saturday, June 27, at the Dickinson County Nature Center.

Although the Dickinson County Nature Center is currently closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, staff are still hard at work to make sure that educational opportunities continue. Although in-person programs and school field trips can’t be held, events like Nature Tots and Storytime with a Naturalist are going virtual. Educational videos are also being offered each weekday on social media and at www.dickinsoncountynaturecenter.com.

“No matter what, we want to make sure that our presence in the community stays strong and that we honor the last 10 years of hard work that have gone into making the Dickinson County Nature Center what it is,” Roth said. “We will continue to do what it takes to foster an appreciation of the natural world in local residents and tourists, whether that be in person or online — whatever the situation calls for.”

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