Watsonville Nature Center is due to be demolished in April with a complete restoration

WATSONVILLE – Watsonville’s nature centre, housed in a trailer since 2004, is due for demolition in April – a first step in the education center’s conversion into a permanent building with expanded exhibitions and services.

The new nature center is expected to cost $2.5 million, said Cristy Cassel-Shimabukuro, director of the City of Watsonville’s conservation program, and will overlook the Watsonville Slough and adjacent wetlands. Funding will come from a variety of sources, including city budget dollars and $7.4 million from America’s federal bailout plan.

For 15 years, the center has offered bilingual programs on topics such as ecology, wildlife, and emergency preparedness. According to Cassel-Shimabukuro, the center hosts more than 5,000 visitors a year.

The renovation of the nature center is part of the extensive master plan for Watsonville Ramsay Park. In 2024 it should be open to the public again.

“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,” wrote Cassel-Shimabukuro in an email to the Guardian.

A feature of the new center will be a gathering place, Cassel-Shimabukuro said, where workshops, meetings and activities will be held. Once constructed, the redesigned facility will provide more space for exhibits and visitors, as well as an observation deck overlooking Watsonville’s vast wetlands.

On Tuesday, Watsonville Parks staff will present the upgrades to Ramsay Park to the City Council, including an update on the redesign of the nature center. This summer, Cassel-Shimabukuro said Watsonville Public Works staff will be soliciting input from local residents on the issues and programs community members would like to see offered at the new center.