The Anoka County Board approved funding Nov. 10 for the second phase of a project revamping the Wargo Nature Center in Lino Lakes.

A $110,000 amendment to a contract with Chase Studios for new exhibits adds phase II projects to the contract. They include three brass sculptures of a snapping turtle, a jumping spider and a blue spotted salamander, which will be placed along the walking path leading to the nature center. Each statue will be about 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide. 

“The kids will be able to touch them, crawl on them, and then there will also be interpretative information interpreting those,” Parks Administration Director Jeff Perry said.

The animals chosen for the sculptures represent three habitats the nature center highlights in its exhibits: forests, lakes and soil. Each sculpture will be made from cold-cast bronze over steel frames and cost more than $30,000, for a total of $91,200.

Also included in the project is a 600 square-foot, maintenance-free epoxy floor that has interpretive features and animal tracks, Perry said. The floor is designed to mimic the appearance of the forest floor with paths marked out by animal tracks. In total the floor will cost $18,800.

The parks department recommended the action to the board because it was an opportunity to take advantage of economy of scale on the project, according to county documents.

The amendment will be entirely funded through the Edith Wargo Nature Center Endowment fund.

“This is all part of the project that we’re doing with the entire changing of the inside with some new displays, updating the displays and including one that’s going to be a (maple) tree,” Commissioner Mike Gamache said.

New interior displays are currently being constructed and are expected to be installed in the spring of 2021. Some of the new exhibits are glass display cases containing facsimiles of the animals and plants found in local habitats including prairie and in the soil. Mounted on the sides of these cases are touch screen monitors including identification information for the species on display.

One exhibit included in the phase I projects that Gamache highlighted is an 18-foot-tall replica of a maple tree. Constructed from steel, fiberglass and epoxy, the tree includes a wraparound steel staircase that leads to a walkway in the tree with binoculars for examining the animals hidden in the tree’s canopy.

Other phase I projects include: a digital display presenting reconstructions of local landscapes over the past 10,000 years, an interactive exhibit displaying animals that live beneath leaf litter, and a sandbox that allows users to manipulate topography and see a digital reconstruction of how topography influences natural communities, according to county documents.

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