An environmental education center located in the Forest Preserve District of Cook County in Lemont will open its new 12,800 square-foot facility later this month.
The Learning Center at Camp Sagawau, 12545 W. 111th St., will officially open to the public with a grand opening at 11 a.m. April 17. Sagawau officials say the new facility will help them better teach the public about the history of the area.
“We’re glad to be able to use the new building and have a new opportunity to serve and teach the public about our forest preserves and the environment,” said Camp Sagawau Director Mike Konrath.
The project took about two years and cost about $8.5 million, said Steve Mayberry, spokesman for the Forest Preserve District. It was funded 100 percent through state grants, made available for capital improvements projects, he said.
The center is two floors and is ADA compliant, Mayberry said.
The main floor contains a multi-media area with a sound system and video screen, a large classroom that seats 24 people and interpretive displays featuring the history of the Sagawau area from 15,000 years ago to present day, Mayberry said.
The lower level is a ski lodge, complete with more than 150 lockers, a ski rental area and a large fireplace. The lodge will benefit cross-country skiers, who will be able to exit the center right onto the forest preserve’s Nordic ski trails, he said.
The center was built using natural materials, including a stone facade, wood columns, and fits with the mission as an environmental education center, Mayberry said.
Forest Preserve District officials are hopeful the building will receive Gold LEED Certification, the highest recognized standard for measuring a building’s sustainability, Mayberry said. The certification is broken into gold, silver and bronze.
“We anticipate the building receiving gold level certification because we meet the checklist,” Mayberry said.
The LEED green building rating system was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, a Washington, D.C., based nonprofit coalition of building industry leaders.
The Learning Center will also be a huge benefit to Camp Sagawau staff, Konrath said.
“We didn’t have an exhibit room before. We have a larger classroom (now) to accommodate the large class sizes we get,” Konrath said. “It’s also a better facility for our ski program. It will be better organized as far as people accessing the ski equipment and the trails.”