Jester Park in Granger, Iowa, is already known for its authentic step into Iowa nature, where visitors can see elk and bison roam. But with the 2018 construction of the Jester Park Nature Center came new activities that immerse visitors in engaging environmental education and one-of-a-kind outdoor experiences.
The 17,700 square-foot nature center serves as a welcome station, interpretive center, promoter of public health and STEM education, and discovery portal where people of all ages can actively experience Iowa's natural heritage through interactive, healthy, and experiential education opportunities.
Before construction of the nature center, Polk County was the only major metropolitan area in Iowa that did not offer its citizens a nature center dedicated to environmental education and outdoor recreation.
Now, through the Outdoor Recreation and Wellness Center, the Polk County Conservation Board provides a regional hub for public education in outdoor skills and wellness, outdoor physical activities for schools, and collaborations between organizations with shared goals for public health.
At the nature center, visitors can:
- Take a nature hike
- Climb an indoor bouldering wall
- Learn about geocaching
- Cast a fishing pole
- Explore the nature center
- Target practice with an air rifle
- Shoot a bow and arrow
- Watch live animal programs
- Paddle in a canoe
The project, with its $10 million price tag, was funded through $5 million from the Polk County Water and Land Legacy Bond and dozens of private donors raising the remaining $5 million. The Wellmark Foundation donated $125,000 toward the Outdoor Recreation and Wellness Center. It is opportunities like this where the Foundation can work with local nonprofits to ensure Iowans have access to activities that promote health and well-being.