By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Jun 02, 2001 at 12:03 AM

The Friends of the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center (FOSANC) have launched an $8.25 million capital campaign to fund a new sustainable education and visitors' facility, program enhancement and other improvements for the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center. So far, $5.75 million, or 70 percent, has been raised in the campaign's first phase, which began a year and a half ago.

The Nature Center and architects, The Kubala Washatko Architects, of Cedarburg, are planning to build one of the most environmentally sustainable buildings in the country and hopes to earn a LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Platinum Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

"A LEED Certification would showcase our commitment to the environment and further demonstrate our mission of education and preservation," said Harney Stover, co-chair of the It's Your Nature Capital Campaign. "The building itself will serve as a teaching tool and will increase the awareness of the use of sustainable building techniques and materials, promote green building for the future and become an environmental landmark for Milwaukee."

Some of the strategies incorporated into the plans for the new building include:

    • choosing a site that preserves natural areas and minimizing impact on the site
    • using natural energy resources, especially daylight
    • minimizing reliance on conventional energy sources
    • choosing eco-friendly mechanical systems
    • using recycled, eco-friendly materials from local resources
    • recycling existing building materials

The new education and visitors' facility will accommodate increased education programs which have more than doubled in the past four years. The Nature Center teaches over 34,000 students each year, more children than any other nature center in Wisconsin and many schools are on waiting lists for programs. The existing building was designed for 12,000 visitors a year and seven staff members, but the Nature Center currently has over 70,000 visitors annually and a staff of 34.

Features of the new 24,000 sq. ft. building include additional space for classrooms and exhibits; a nature-focused pre-school; unique areas for corporate functions and special events; an expanded nature store; and improved accessibility for disabled.

"The facility will be the portal to the Center's fascinating sanctuary, bringing the outside in, with space for visitors to enjoy learning, places to talk with experts and room for exhibits," said Barb Wenninger, co-chair of the capital campaign. "One of the most exciting areas of the building will be a hearth with a fireplace on the east side, facing Lake Michigan, where visitors will be able to relax and enjoy the natural atmosphere."

Donations to the campaign may be made by visiting the Nature Center's Web site at and by calling the Nature Center at (414) 352-2880 or in-person at 1111 E. Brown Deer Rd.