Tamarac Discovery Center is true to its name, offering young and old a chance to discover nature at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge.

In 1992, outdoors enthusiasts successfully organized the Friends of Tamarac Wildlife Refuge, a nonprofit providing organized volunteer and financial support to the refuge. Already involved in hosting school-aged visitors at the refuge, the group wanted to do more to help youth unplug from screens and reconnecfriends of tamarac 019t to nature. The final push to action came from a little girl, who told volunteers she had never been in the woods before she took her school field trip at Tamarac. And she loved it.

The Friends then took the unusual step of fund-raising to build a 100-person indoor classroom and outdoor amphitheater within a national wildlife refuge. “The amazingly generous and giving members of this community produced a truly successful and timely result to our capital campaign,” said Don Blanding, past president and capital campaign chairman.

MMCDC provided a low-cost $100,000 loan, repayable in 10 years, to allow time to collect community pledges and raise remaining funds while proceeding with construction of the 1,906-square-foot building and 840-square-foot plaza and amphitheater.

MMCDC’s loan lowered the overall cost and boosted the profile of the Discovery Center, said Friends President Ron Jenson. “The fact that MMCDC has stepped forward has given some credibility to the project,” he said. The $613,952 facility is largely complete, and pledge collections are on track.

“We are so proud to have this resource available,” said Kelly Blackledge, Visitor Services Manager, Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. “The Tamarac Discovery Center creates an accessible space for people of all abilities to come together to learn about conservation, discuss conservation issues and become stewards of our natural resources. It will be available to the community for conservation-related meetings, workshops, or educational events.”

The 43,000-acre Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge is located in northwest Minnesota. It is well-known for its migrating waterfowl and for leading the restoration of the trumpeter swan, a once-endangered species, to Minnesota. As a result, it is a featured stop in the annual Festival of Birds, which draws birders from across the nation and Canada to the Detroit Lakes, Minn., area annually.