About this time of year, many wildlife critters are thinking of hunkering down for the winter.
Hibernation is the last thing on the mind of Medicine River Wildlife Centre executive director Carol Kelly.
The centre southwest of Spruce View, which has been tending to injured wildlife since 1984, is embarking on one of its busiest winters yet.
A nine-year project to build a new hospital and education centre has come to fruition.
“We’ve identified the funds, we believe, for the whole building now,” says Kelly, standing before the concrete pad that will become a new hospital.
“The walls and shell of the building have been ordered. So we’ll be working on the interor of the building over the winter.”
When completed in the spring, the $1-million facility will have new and improved intensive care units, quarantine room, examination and patient receiving room, oiled wildlife wash area, freezer room and education centre.
It is a project that could not have happened without the help of many, she said.
Construction, concrete and roofing companies have donated their expertise, materials and time.
“What’s been really helpful getting it through is not only cash donations but labour,” she says, adding companies stepped up to provide both the roof and concrete floor free of charge.
“That kind of work is every bit as good as cash,” she says, adding service clubs, community volunteers, governments and others have also provided invaluable support of all kinds.
The hospital is not the only big change visitors will see next year.
A $133,000-grant from Central Alberta Co-op is going towards what Kelly says will be a “spectacular” new playground for kids.
“We’ve received the funding. It’s in the bank, and we are in the process of designing and building and it will be ready for next year.
“The new playground is like any other,” she says.
Children can play in a fox den, bird box, beaver lodge and owl’s nest.
To put children even further into the mindset of the bird or animal of their choice, they will be given hats to assume their adopted wildlife personas.
A few nimbled-fingered sewing talents are wanted to help create the hats for them over the winter.
Kelly already has big plans beyond the current projects. A new bird of prey compound is needed, as well as another for mammals.
The most ambitious project in the works is a new interpretive centre.
“It never ends. It just keeps going,” she says.