A new 3,500-square-foot building will make a world of difference at the Ellis Bird Farm.
The official opening of the new visitors centre at the rural educational centre took place on Friday. The new facility offers a dedicated indoor space, something that Ellis Bird Farm manager and biologist Myrna Pearman said will greatly improve the programming they can offer.
“One of the problems we’ve always had is we’ve never had space to go to when the weather is poor,” said Pearman. “We’ve tried to host events and we’ve been limited by shelter.
“Now we have a nice big building we can host events and do our school programs in.”
With the help of about $450,000 in donations from MEGlobal and $200,000 in donations and in-kind contributions, the building took 12 weeks to get up.
Ken Wigmore, Lacombe County councillor, new visitor centre project manager and Ellis Bird Farm board chair, said that was pretty quick.
“It will give us more space to do our school programs and host different events,” said Wigmore, adding the long-term hope is the building can provide year-round uses for the bird farm. Currently the bird farm is open from the Victoria Day long weekend to Labour Day every summer.
A large number of Central Alberta businesses also contributed to the construction.
In appearance it is similar to a community hall, with a kitchen and large open area and smaller rooms. A counter to the right of the front door is where the future reception area will be, with a room behind the counter to be the home of the future gift shop.
About 1,200 school children attend various programming during the school year, and summer programs attract more visitors to the site.
Throughout the summer, the Ellis Bird Farm will offer numerous workshops, day camps and school programs. Most of the educational programs are done outside.
In the long term, the plan is to use the old visitors centre for workshops and smaller events and have the new building as the main visitors centre.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” said Pearman. “We can now take our time and develop it, develop our exhibits and decide how best we are going to use the space.”