Artists rendering by Banner Associates
This is what the new Nature Center at Dakota Nature Park will look like. The contract for the $1.16 million structure was awarded this week, and work should get under way soon. The Nature Center, which overlooks the park ponds, will include classrooms, a large atrium and exhibit space.
• Project, funded by anonymous donor, will cost $1.16 million
BROOKINGS – This time next year, a brand-new Nature Center at Brookings’ Dakota Nature Park could be welcoming busloads of kids eager to learn about frogs and fish and pond life as they begin their fall school term.
Brookings City Council officially launched Phase II of the Dakota Nature Park project this week, approving Clark Drew Construction as contractor for the park learning center, which will overlook the ponds from the southwest corner of the park.
The city will pay $1.16 million for the rustic, lodge-like Nature Center – still without a more formal name – but that cost has already been provided by a $2 million gift from an anonymous donor.
Still, the bids came in 20 to 50 percent higher than anticipated, and planners had to do some trimming.
The Brookings firm that won the Nature Center project, Clark Drew Construction, bested six other applicants – four from Sioux Falls, one from Willow Lake and another from Brookings, Waltz Construc-tion.
Drew’s base bid of $1,229,500 was lowest of the seven; construction prices topped out at $1,570,000. Even when several bid alternates were eliminated, the Clark Drew numbers remained the lowest.
Banner Associates, which provided the design and specs for the work, had estimated the project cost would come in at about $1,028,000. City Manager Jeff Weldon said planners felt the bids came in somewhat higher than anticipated because it was non-standard construction and in an unusual setting.
To keep the work on a sound financial footing, city planners eliminated three of four bid alternates, which included a fireplace, decorative wall panels, wood roof shingles and an outdoor trellis. Only the stacked-stone fireplace – a $12,500 feature – was retained. That brought the total cost of the work to $1,163,000.
Weldon told council that the planned wall panels and the trellis are items that can be added later. And instead of cedar shake shingles on the roof, the builders will use an asphalt shingle.
“We’ll do our best to replicate the appearance of wood shingles,” Weldon said, “but we think the deduction is worth taking to bring down the costs.”
“Even though this project is coming in over what we had estimated, in the budget, it is part of what are basically eight phases – eight smaller projects – that make up the Dakota Nature Park master plan, and we’ve got six more to go. Parks Director (Peter) Colson and I have been working on ways to keep the overall master plan in budget, so I’m confident we’ll be able to do it.”
To keep the project moving ahead, Weldon and Colson recommended awarding the contract to Drew.
The single-story nature center will encompass approximately 5,300 square feet and will feature a vaulted, timber-frame atrium as its central section. The building will include a large classroom, the atrium (second classroom) with exhibits and reception desk, a four-season porch/meeting room, a storage room for outdoor gear, mechanical and custodial rooms and three bathrooms.
The building project also includes a patio, walkways and landscaping in the immediate area around the building, geothermal heating and a city water line.
The area around the center will be landscaped with native grasses, trees and shrubs.
Parks Director Colson said earlier this year that he hoped the contractor would be able to complete the concrete work for the structure and perhaps get the building enclosed for the winter.
With favorable autumn weather, the building could be ready for use sometime next year.
The entry for the Nature Center will be off 32nd Street South, one of two entrances to the park. The other is on 22nd Avenue, just beyond the SouthBrook softball complex.
Another structure is planned for the park area. A private community group, in cooperation with the state 4-H Foundation, is creating the South Dakota Outdoor Adventure Center near the northeast entrance to the park. The first phase of that building will cost $2.65 million. It is planned as a multi-use, mutli-generational facility, but one of its major purposes is to provide a home for youth shooting sports programs.
Dakota Nature Park is a 135-acre property that is the former city landfill. The reclaimed area that once also included gravel pits is now fully wooded with a series of ponds offering fishing and boating as well as hiking and biking trails.
The first phase of the park renovation, which involved the creation of new entry roads, parking areas, boat launches and fishing docks and piers, was completed this summer by Bowes Construction of Brookings.
Contact Ken Curley at email@example.com.