Outdoor Education Center Groundbreaking
Construction has begun on an Outdoor Education Center and interpretive nature trail at Jack Creek Preserve between Ennis and Big Sky, Mont. While fundraising is not complete for the Center it is anticipated that the building will be completed by next spring. The new facilities will be open seasonally to the public and will be available for use year round by educational and community organizations.
“These facilities will serve as the nucleus of our educational activities,” said Jon Fossel, Co-Chairman of the Jack Creek Preserve Foundation board. “Our focus is giving young people a deeper understanding of the importance of protecting habitat, conserving wildlife and the role of hunters as conservationists. The new Outdoor Education Center will help us deliver our message in a classroom surrounded by the subjects we’re focused on—habitat, wildlife and hunting. “
The Center will have classroom space accommodating 50 people and overnight sleeping space for up to 40, plus displays on subjects such as wolves, logging and forest fires. It intends to utilize a mini-hydro and solar system to provide its electricity and hot water.
The new Outdoor Education Center and interpretive nature trail will help the Preserve expand its reach and offer educational opportunities to more students, teachers and other visitors to the region.
The Preserve is also discussing with the Forest Service the possibility of opening a seasonal public-use hiking trail connecting the Spanish Peaks trail and the South Jack Creek trail across Preserve land that lies between northern and southern portions of Lee Metcalf Wilderness. The Spanish Peaks Trail in the northern portion of Lee Metcalf Wilderness and the South Jack Creek trail in the southern portion have always been separated by private land that lies in between. Hikers were forced to go back to the trailhead to access trails on the other side.
“The trail likely will be open only during the summer and winter,” said Fossel. “We can’t have people disturbing elk during calving season or hiking during hunting season, for example. We’re currently working with the Forest Service (which manages Lee Metcalf Wilderness) to determine appropriate access periods.”
He added, “Were it not for a tremendous array of agencies, organizations, businesses and individuals who have provided so much in the way of guidance, labor and funding for the Outdoor Education Center, it would still only be a dream.”
Fossel gave special thanks to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Pope and Young Club, and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Foundation and the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation for their support.
The Jack Creek Preserve encompasses 4,500 acres of diverse wildlife habitat ranging from high alpine basins to willow-choked creek bottoms. It was founded in 2005 by the Fossel family to promote wildlife conservation, ethical hunting and youth education.
For more information, visit www.jackcreekpreserve.org or Jack Creek Preserve Foundation on Facebook.