Since 1995, Wild Bear Nature Center has served tens of thousands of people of all ages, through formal programs for children and families and a free community nature center. open to the public 360 days of the year. The center annually provides >20,000 people with hands-on exhibits and information about nature along local trails. We also provide the only licensed school age childcare in Nederland, with almost 50% qualifying for free and reduced lunch and participating through scholarships or government subsidies.
In 2000, Wild Bear was a key partner in the preservation of 260 acres of Mud Lake Open Space. Now 3,000 additional acres have been preserved on the northern edge of Nederland. Wild Bear's volunteers removed over 30 tons of trash from Mud Lake which is now one of the healthiest wetland habitats in Boulder County. We own five of the acres and in 1999, voters approved this to be the location of a permanent nature center. Despite this, Wild Bear was without a permanent home, moving eight times over 15 years. In 2010, we moved to a rented commercial location in downtown Nederland, growing the vision from only providing children's programs to offering all-ages programs and general visitation.
We closed our doors in March 2020 during the quarantine but re-opened the center and provided summer day camps for ten weeks beginning June 1. Through guidance from Boulder County Public Health and State Licensing, we safely brought 20-25 masked and socially-distanced children per day to high alpine trails to explore the outdoors. Programs are age specific with 5-7-year-olds (Neder and Mountain Rangers); Wild Naturalists (ages 8-9), and ages 10+ fly fish, hike, and engage in upper level natural science. Last year, Wild Bear provided 363 programs to 3,169 children.
Wild Bear has worked 20 years to achieve the vision of a nature center at Mud Lake. Our partnership in preserving Mud Lake and securing the five-acre site includes a conservation easement with Boulder County with a limit of 8,500 sq. feet of built space and limited visibility from the Peak-to-Peak Scenic Byway. Over the last year, we engaged Arch 11 and Civitas (architect team) and have completed schematic design within these limitations. The building includes educational program spaces and bathrooms for children's and family programs, a main floor exhibit area, a gift shop, reception area and offices. We project the facility will be net zero, through passive solar, solar panels and ecologically sound materials. Nearby is a nature play scape, an outdoor classroom/amphitheater and an interpreted trail for families to enjoy. Boulder County Parks has built a connection trail from our trail to the 16-mile network of trails through the two open spaces. Our campaign goal is $6.52m and to date, we have raised $2,539,875, or 41% of the goal. The new permanent nature center will be a wonderful place for children and families from throughout the region to convene, collaborate, learn about mountain ecosystems, and find solace in the outdoors.