Conservation campus for Cape county park gets state approval

Saturday, December 21, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The Missouri Conservation Commission on Friday gave approval for construction of the Cape Girardeau Conservation Campus.

The campus is part of a $7.3 million project at Cape Girardeau County Park North.

Commissioner Stephen C. Bradford of Cape Girardeau said the campus will prove a boon for the county.

"It will be a great educational opportunity for the residents of Cape and the surrounding area," Bradford said.

In the years the campus has been under discussion it has been commonly referred to as a "nature center," of which there are four others around the state. However, department of conservation director John Hoskins said the Cape Girardeau project is more than that and will be the first of its kind in Missouri.

"We call it a conservation campus because it will be a broader concept than what we have with the nature centers," Hoskins said. "It is intended to be an outreach tool to connect to residents beyond the immediate community and to a broader geographic area."

While nature centers offer passive indoor exhibits and some more involved opportunities to learn about conservation, Hoskins said the conservation campus envisioned at Cape Girardeau will provide substantially more in the way of interactive programs, including teaching skills such as hunting and fishing.

Cape Girardeau County officials estimate the new facility could attract as many as 200,000 visitors annually.

The county commission is issuing $4.75 million in bonds for the project. The conservation department will repay the bonds over 10 years. Private donations and grants will pay the remaining cost.

The campus will include a 20,000-square-foot building near the department's existing regional office. The new structure will include classrooms and a 150-seat auditorium. Hiking trails, gardens and a 75-seat amphitheater are also planned.

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