Plans for an update to the Willowbrook Wildlife Center are in the works. On Tuesday night the DuPage Forest Preserve District Board reviewed proposed plans for a $25.5 million facelift for the Glen Ellyn site.
Net Zero Building
The revamped site would include a 27,000 square foot wildlife rehabilitation clinic and visitor center. It would replace the current building, which is 42 years old. The new structure would be the district’s first net zero building. That means the amount of renewable energy created on site would exceed the amount used by the building.
“Building a net-zero medical facility will achieve mission-critical improvements to wildlife care in our community and create a beautiful new space for community engagement and learning about conservation and sustainability,” said Kevin Horsfall, assistant director of resource management and development at the Forest Preserve District in a forest preserve district press release.
Additions like a geothermal heating and cooling system, solar panels mounted on the roof and ground converting sunlight into electricity, and energy saving features within the new center will help in these efforts.
Also included in the plans are an indoor and outdoor animal rehabilitation area, an interactive educational exhibit, an outdoor classroom, a walking trail to different wildlife observation areas and spaces for demonstrating how to attract and behave around animals in their natural habitat.
“Since 1956 Willowbrook has been a leader in wildlife rehabilitation and education,” said District President Daniel Hebread in a Forest Preserve District of DuPage County press release. “This ambitious project will allow the District to continue providing exceptional leadership to DuPage County and the greater Chicago region not only in the outstanding care of native wildlife but also in environmental conservation.”
Currently Willowbrook Wildlife Center treats and rehabilitates roughly 10,000 animals each year. It also serves as a wildlife education resource for the public, and aids in the district’s captive-rearing program for threatened or endangered species. Those rehabilitation efforts would continue throughout construction of the new space.
As the center is not funded by state or federal funds, money for the project will come largely from general obligation limited-tax bonds, which will cover about $22 million of the costs. The district is hoping additional monies will come from a 3.5 million dollar grant fund it is seeking for the project. And $3.7 million more has been brought in by private donations.
The new facility is being designed by Wight & Company. The forest preserve board is expected to vote on the project at its April 19 meeting. If approved, the center is projected to be open to the public by mid-2024 and to be fully completed by 2025.
Naperville News 17’s Tim Jacobi reports.
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