KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A conservation home in the heart of Kansas City is celebrating a decade of helping people discover nature. The Missouri Department of Conservation's (MDC) Anita B. Gorman Conservation Discovery Center will hold a 10-year anniversary celebration from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 7, with family friendly activities devoted to nature and the outdoors. All events are free.
Activities at the anniversary celebration will include making art prints with leaves, building birdfeeders and programs on insects and birds. Visitors can “walk on the wild side” in the gardens or take home a native tree seedling or wildflower for transplanting. The Stone Lion Puppet Theater will present “Down the Drain” in the auditorium at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. For more information, call 816-759-7300.
The unique outreach in the urban core began when vacant lots at 4750 Troost Ave. were turned into an education center with classrooms and natural landscaping. MDC and national, state and local leaders dedicated the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center on April 13, 2002.
Since then, thousands of visitors have walked the garden trails or found a new way to discover nature in the classrooms.
“I feel like this has become a conservation community center,” said Pat Whalen, an MDC education specialist who helped plan the project.
Non-profit conservation, garden and community groups meet at the Discovery Center. School children visit classrooms with themes dedicated to nature, water quality and outdoor skills. Programs for adults and families are also offered evenings and weekends. The trails through the outdoor gardens are always open and the flowers and foliage are colorful and ever-changing.
MDC Education Specialist Shea Bergman has taught visitors about watersheds and rivers in the Nature’s Aquarium classroom since the Center’s doors opened. Fish in aquariums and a scale version of a river bed with running water are among his teaching tools.
“I hope it gives people an appreciation for where their water comes from,” said Bergman. “Many don’t realize the water they use comes from a river and returns to a river. I hope to connect them with the rivers in their neighborhoods, wherever those are, and I teach them what they can do at home to help make water cleaner.”
The Center is named for Kansas City civic leader Anita B. Gorman, a former member of the Missouri Conservation Commission who championed the Center and raised private funds for half of the $8 million construction costs. Gorman said she’s proud that the Center hosts visitors from both nearby neighborhoods and more distant suburbs or rural towns.
“A wide range of people enjoy the Discovery Center,” Gorman said. “The Missouri Department of Conservation wants to serve everybody. I truly believe that the staff and programs at the Discovery Center have accomplished that mission.”
The Discovery Center’s environmentally friendly design has won several awards. Architects led by Bob Berkebile at BNIM of Kansas City designed the project. A key feature is the outdoor gardens planted in prairie, wetland and woodland themes.
“Architects from all over the country come by to see this place,” Whalen said. “In our gardens, you can make the case that this is among the best examples of incorporating natural landscaping in Kansas City, and probably the whole state.”
The Discovery Center also has a nature shop with books and guides. Visitors can get information or purchase fishing and hunting permits at the lobby service counter. Mounted animals native to Missouri such as elk, bison and mountain lion are on display in the lobby. MDC has staff offices in the building.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources, which manages state parks among other public services, also maintains offices in the Discovery Center.
The Center's celebration comes as MDC celebrates its 75th anniversary of making Missouri a great place to fish, hunt and enjoy nature. Missourians care about the outdoors and approved in 1976 a one-eighth-of-one-cent sales tax for conservation, which helps make innovative projects such as the Discovery Center possible.