UPDATED: Ground broken for DNR office complex/visitor's center at Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area
It was heralded as a 'big, historic day' for Greene County as Gov. Mitch Daniels and state and local elected officials turned the first shovels of dirt on a picturesque knoll, the site of a soon to be built Indiana Department of Natural Resources Southwest Regional Office/Visitor's Center at Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area Friday morning.
Nearly 100 people ---- many who have worked behind the scenes and dreamed of someday having a visitor's center at the more than 8,000 acre marsh/wetlands state-owned property ---- attended the Friday morning ceremony.
The multi-million dollar 4,800 square foot facility will be constructed in two phases ---- the first being the regional office, according to DNR Director Rob Carter.
As a show of support for the visitor's center the Friends of the Goose Pond organization pledged $25,000 towards its construction.
"The Friends through a variety of fundraising activities, and with the help of the Smithville Charitable Foundation and the Greene County Foundation has secured $25,000 to be pledged towards this project," Friends of the Goose Pond President Tom Ciscowski stated. "Within the scope of this project, it is a small sum, however, it certainly shows what a small group can accomplish, and it can go a long way in providing some of the 'extras' that will establish the center as a showcase."
The Indiana Department of Correction will provide some of the manpower for the construction of the facility, Carter said.
Peabody Energy's Bear Run Mine near Dugger has also committed to doing the grade work for the site.
The site overlooks the southwest part of the property off of County Road 400S.
Conceptual drawings for the visitor's center include floor-to-ceiling glass walls overlooking the wetlands. Final details await completion of a study to determine the appropriate displays, educational materials and other features of the visitor's center, according DNR Communications spokesman Phil Bloom.
Gov. Daniels lauded what he called the "brave and persistent" group that worked so hard over the years to make the visitor's center a reality.
"This is all your success and what we are here to do today is yours as well," Daniels said.
Daniels said he was pleased his administration has played a part in the conservation and protection of natural resources era in the state.
"It's the best we've ever had. Anyway you measure it -- acreage, number of projects, the size of those projects. It really all starts with Goose Pond," he said. "I guess I'll always have to remember Goose Pond as sort of the bookends of my time in service. It was not that long into my first year in 2005 when we finally were able to pull the trigger and bring about the success that led to the 8,000 acres here. And now with 113 days left to go (in his term) we're going to put this structure here that I hope and believe will do everything that proponents have envisioned for it."
Looking out over the view from the proposed site, Daniels commented, "What a fantastic vantage point this is. I just can't wait until the structure is here and being used all the time by people near by and those not so nearby and for children and others who can learn lessons for life by coming here to Goose Pond. I hope by coming they will be captivated by quality of what is represented here."
The governor continued, "I am enormously grateful for everybody who has helped to do this. Goose Pond just sort of motivated some of us (in state government) to think even bigger and bigger ... I like to tell everybody that we got the inspirations for other projects from the folks here at Goose Pond seeing your long sought project come to success and completion."
Daniels called it a "great day".
"I can't wait to see what it looks like when it is here. I can't wait to see when it is full of people, young and old, who will get their own sense of the obligation to protect places like this," he added.
Rep. Matt Ubelhor (R-Bloomfield) was credited with helping to champion to project to the governor on behalf of local residents and members of the Friends of the Goose Pond organization.
In remarks Friday, Ubelhor thanks DNR officials and Gov. Daniels for what he called "the wisdom" to see this project to reality.
Daniels commented that "it was an easy sell to him."
Ubelhor called the DNR office and visitor's center a catalyst for economic growth.
"It took a long time and there were a lot of years to put this together and this is a successful beginning. This is something great for Indiana and Greene County and even the region," Ubelhor said. "When you come down here on hunting day it's not just Greene County license plates. It's not just our area here. They are coming from out of state to see what is happening in Greene County in Indiana. This is going to be an economic engine for our area. It's going to be good. This is big for Greene County. This is big for Indiana. It's the right thing to do."
Linton Mayor John Wilkes in remarks also thanks the Governor and DNR for bring this facility to the Linton area.
"This is a big asset to the county and the whole area. We have this going for us. We have so many things going for us in the area. I-69 will be completed by the end of the year. WestGate at Crane Tech Park is a phenomenal thing for us. NSA Crane itself is and then you put Goose Pond in with the mix and we really have a lot going for us in this part the state," Wilkes said. "As mayor of Linton, the largest city in the county, we will do everything we can to promote and make this Goose Pond and this facility as extra special as possible."