WATSONVILLE — Watsonville’s Nature Center, housed in a trailer since 2004, is slated to be demolished in April — a first step toward transforming the educational hub into a permanent building that will have expanded exhibits and offerings.
The new nature center is slated to cost $2.5 million, said city of Watsonville Conservation Program Manager Cristy Cassel-Shimabukuro, and will overlook the Watsonville Loop and it’s adjacent wetlands. The funding will come from a mix of sources, including city budget dollars and $7.4 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds.
For 15 years, the center has provided bilingual programs on topics such as ecology, wildlife and emergency preparedness. According to Cassel-Shimabukuro, the center receives more than 5,000 visitors per year.
The nature center renovation is one part of the extensive Watsonville Ramsay Park master plan. It is scheduled to reopen to the public in 2024.
“One of our hopes for this new center is to provide a space for people of all generations and backgrounds to spend more time together as a community sharing their experiences, doubts and knowledge about life and conservation,” Cassel-Shimabukuro wrote in an e- Mail to the Sentinel.
A feature of the new center will be a meeting place, Cassel-Shimabukuro said, where workshops, meetups and activities will be hosted. Once built, the remodeled facility will offer more space for exhibits and visitors, as well as an observation deck for views of the sprawling Watsonville wetlands.
On Tuesday, Watsonville Parks staff is set to present Ramsay Park upgrades to the City Council, which will include an update on the nature center editorial. According to Cassel-Shimabukuro, Watsonville Public Works staff will seek input from residents this summer on the topics and programs community members would like to see offered at the new center.