Unique outdoor education facility to be operated by KDWPT
TOPEKA – The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) will operate the Southeast Kansas Nature Center (SEKNC), Cherokee County, under a lease agreement with the city of Galena. The center sits on a hilltop in picturesque Schermerhorn Park, overlooking Shoal Creek south of the city.
The lease, finalized earlier this month, allows KDWPT to lease the center and 10.1 acres of Schermerhorn Park for $1.00 annually for a term of two years, with an option to renew for two additional years. KDWPT will manage the center, care for exhibits, maintain nature trails currently on the property, and provide educational programming. The city of Galena will continue to own and manage the park (including Schermerhorn Cave and the park area along Shoal Creek), as well as maintain the center.
Several exhibits and some equipment at the SEKNC are on loan from other sources. Those items, including a working bee hive and large insect collection, are excluded from the lease agreement and will continue to remain under private ownership.
“We are excited to take over the operation of the center so we can expand our educational presence to southeast Kansas,” said Ross Robins, KDWPT Education Section chief. “It is a valuable addition to our portfolio of education centers and we’re looking forward to fostering our partnerships with Pittsburg State, Galena schools and local organizations.”
Jennifer Rader, director of the SEKNC, states "I am thrilled to be a part of this new phase in the center’s life. Schermerhorn Park has an incredible diversity of wildlife and habitat perfect for outdoor education.” Rader also added that Galena residents are highly supportive of the nature center and what former director Linda Phipps has done for environmental education. “I plan to build on her legacy and provide more center-based and outreach programs for area schools, organizations and the public. We also want to explore internship and volunteer opportunities for local colleges, service projects for interested groups, and partnerships with other environmental education programs."
Schermerhorn Park is ideally situated in the 55-square mile Ozark Plateau geologic region in far southeast Kansas. The region features the oldest surface rocks in the state, and many of the hillsides are covered with hardwood forest dominated by oaks and hickories. Galena is an anchor point for the Kansas Historic Route 66 Byway, which stretches between Galena and Baxter Springs.
SEKNC is located at 3511 South Main Street (K-26), Galena. Hours of operation are Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 4 pm. For more information, call the center at (620) 783-5207.