(LINTON) - Calling Goose Pond the conservation bookends of his administration, Gov. Mitch Daniels joined representatives of the Department of Natural Resources and other officials Friday in a groundbreaking ceremony at Goose Pond Fish & Wildlife Area.
The event drew approximately 100 people to a knoll in the southwest corner of Goose Pond where the DNR plans to build a regional office and visitors center that overlook the 8,064-acre Greene County property.
"What a fantastic vantage point this is," Daniels said. "I just can't wait until the structure is here and is used all the time by people from nearby and not so near."
Daniels noted Goose Pond's role during his administration that so far has resulted in the DNR gaining permanent conservation protection for more than 50,000 acres. Goose Pond was purchased during his first year in office in 2005 and Friday's announcement at Goose Pond comes during his final year as governor.
"It all starts with Goose Pond," he said. "I guess I will always remember Goose Pond as bookends in my time of service."
The initial construction phase of a 4,800-square-foot office that will serve as the southwest regional headquarters for the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife is expected to begin this year.
A second phase, still in development, will be a visitors center to accommodate the growing number of people coming to the property. Goose Pond recorded 3,500 hunting efforts (one hunter visit for one day) and an estimated 12,000 wildlife watchers in the past year.
Conceptual drawings for the visitors center by the DNR Division of Engineering include floor-to-ceiling glass walls overlooking the wetland, plus a "green" roof and a living wall. Final details await completion of a study to determine appropriate displays, educational materials and other features for the visitors center.
"I'm going to call this a celebration because we've been seven years in the making to get to this point," said Mark Reiter, director of DNR Fish & Wildlife. "It's time for us to share this more with the local community and to be that economic driver in this community that we promised we were going to be from the very start. With this announcement, I think we're going to head down that path."
At Friday's event, the Friends of Goose Pond group pledged $25,000 toward construction of the visitors center.
Goose Pond's expansive wetlands and prairie have quickly made it a popular destination not only for waterfowl hunters but also for wildlife viewing, especially bird watching.
More than 240 bird species have been recorded at Goose Pond, including a number of rare and endangered birds, such as northern harrier, short-eared owl, Wilson's phalarope, sandhill crane, whooping crane, American bittern, least bittern, king rail, sedge wren and Henslow's sparrow.
Two birds whose home territory is Asia found their way to Goose Pond earlier this year - an Asian hooded crane in February, and a curlew sandpiper in May.
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