Construction Begins On Net-Zero Nature Center In Nederland

In August, Wild Bear Nature Center broke ground on its new net-zero nature center in Nederland. Wild Bear’s plans for a new nature center place a focus on experiential learning and expressing creativity.

Founded in 1995 by Jill Dreves, Wild Bear is an outdoor education center with an emphasis on interactive learning and experiencing the joys of playing in nature. It hosts outdoor ecology programs, workshops and events year-round for participants of all ages. Wild Bear also has an indoor nature center in downtown Nederland.

By opening a new nature center that runs solely on renewable energy, Wild Bear hopes to usher in a new era of opportunities for outdoor education in Colorado.

Wild Bear

Photo courtesy of Wild Bear Nature Center on Facebook

Wild Bear designed a net-zero nature center that will be powered through active and passive solar energy. The center’s solar power will be tied to Nederland’s power grid, sending energy to the town.

The site of the planned nature center converges with over 3,000 acres of Boulder County open space, which currently has 16 miles of trails.

Studies show that the further removed people are from nature, the more difficult it is to feel connected to it. Through building a fully-interactive nature center, Wild Bear aims to restore that connection in children and adults alike. Participants can go beyond viewing ecosystem models and nature displays by experiencing the outdoors firsthand, accompanied by hands-on educators both outdoors and in.

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To build the nature center, Wild Bear has secured over $5.5 million in philanthropic funding from over 80 donors, in addition to grants from several foundations, such as the Boettcher Foundation, Gates Family Foundation and other family foundations.

Plans for a Net-Zero Nature Center

wild bear nature center proposal

Simulated design of net-zero nature center. Photo courtesy of Wild Bear Nature Center

The new nature center offers programs for visitors of all ages. Essential features of the nature center include interactive classrooms, an outdoor amphitheater with a solar-powered stage and a Nature Playscape, allowing children to express creativity through a variety of mediums while surrounded by nature. Plans for the center also include a Maker’s Space for participants of all ages to create earth-inspired art. 

Notably, the center will offer full access for visitors with accessibility needs, including ADA-informed nature trails and an accessible playscape.

People of all ages will be able to visit the Wild Bear Nature Center for free and explore the various outdoor spaces along the Front Range.

“We are grateful to our community who has supported us right from the beginning in 1995, and over the years we have accomplished so much to give back to the community and to nature. We look forward to opening the doors to children and families, to build lifelong relationships together with nature, to know that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves,” said Dreves, who acts as the executive director of Wild Bear Nature Center, in a statement.

Construction Begins

breaking ground of nature center

Photo courtesy of Wild Bear Nature Center on Facebook

Wild Bear began construction on the newest addition to the Wild Bear Nature Center in late August. The center is set to open to the public in fall of 2024.

Before breaking ground on the center, Wild Bear Nature Center invited leaders and community members from the Arapaho, Ute and Cheyenne tribes for a land acknowledgment ceremony. Ava Hamilton, an Arapaho historian and filmmaker, and Steven LaPointe, a member of the Sicangu Lakota tribe and community organizer, both led attendees in blessings, accompanied by a dancing and drumming ceremony. 

“We are truly humbled and grateful for our community and for these Native Peoples to bless this land,” Dreves said. 

Wild Bear will host its annual Enchanted Forest event on Sept. 24. This year, participants can check out the site and its ongoing construction.

You can learn more about Wild Bear Nature Center on its website.