Monday, March 03, 2008

Environmental Studies

Environmental Studies
Park to add Nature Center complex
By Danny Bernardini/Staff Writer
Article Launched: 03/03/2008

Mel Hargis, of Rio Linda, walks his dog along a trail Saturday at Lake Solano park, which is getting a $3 million nature center. (Ryan Chalk/The Reporter)

Plans are in motion to build the Lake Solano Nature Center, which county officials hope will become a hub of activity for the area.

A call for bids for the project will go out in March and construction hopefully will start in the summer, said Dan Sykes, Solano County Parks Services manager. Plans are to have the center opened by February 2009.

The 5,000-square-foot building, estimated to cost $3 million, is pegged to be built near the entrance of the campground and would house 4,000 square feet of exhibit space, along with offices for the park rangers and storage space, Sykes said.

Sykes and others hope the center will become an anchor for the area, including Lake Berryessa, and will attract many to the park that is often overlooked.

"It's a project that has been dreamed about at least the last 10 years," Sykes said. "It's a really good moment for Solano County parks."

The center will offer a wide variety of educational components, Sykes said, including an aquarium featuring native species and even help toward water safety. Sykes said he also hopes the center will become a meeting place for volunteers, park stewards and field trips to the area. He said they may also may be able to rent out the area to make some money for the parks.

The collaborative effort between the county, the Bureau of Reclamation and community groups like the Putah Creek Discovery Corridor Collaborative did take some time, but after construction and design questions have been worked out, Sykes said it's all starting to come together.

"We're ready to get this project done. Part of it was getting a consensus on design - that took several years," he said. "It really will raise the profile of Lake Solano Park."

Just because plans are moving forward, it hasn't stopped the county from seeking more funds. Tuesday's county supervisors meeting featured the board going ahead with applying for a $150,000 grant to go toward educational aspects of the center.

Besides the educational portion, Sykes said he was excited for the rangers at the park to finally have a top-of-the-line facility.

"The rangers are really working out of a sub-standard space," he said. "We want to give them a new home."

The Lake Solano Nature Center will become a meeting place for volunteers, park stewards and school field trips. (Artist's rendering/Courtesy image)

Danny Bernardini can be reached at

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