VINS opens new nature center in Quechee

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(Host) The Vermont Institute of Natural Science opens its new nature center in Quechee on Saturday. The $8 million facility is an effort by VINS to grow in size and in scope.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Sounds of birds) “That’s an immature bald eagle.”

(Zind) For the moment, the raptors are still the main attraction at the new nature center on Route 4, just west of the Quechee Gorge. A small number of the hundreds of injured birds taken in by VINS each year reside at the new center. The enclosures with hawks, eagles, owls and falcons form an arc around an area that will be used to demonstrate the bird’s aerial skills. Jason Drebitko is the center’s project director.

(Drebitko) “Our marquis program here at the new nature center is called Predators of the Sky. And in that program we’ll feature eight to ten of our star birds and we’ll fly them and show different adaptations to the audience.”

(Zind) VINS has always had both research and public education as its goals, but the new center is a more visitor friendly place, with sheltered walkways in front of the bird enclosures and hands-on activities. With nearly 50 acres at the new site, VINS is taking advantage of its location to construct a trail system that leads through the woods down to the Ottauquechee River. The trails also connect with a nearby state park and run to the Quechee Gorge.

Drebitko says there’s more to come when money can be raised to expand the new center. The next phase includes a building with exhibits that will be devoted to Vermont’s natural world beyond raptors.

(Drebitko) “After all, we’re the Vermont Institute of Natural Science and this facility will allow us to delve into that more deeply than we have in the past. Because to most people, VINS is ‘that raptor place up on the hill’ and we’re getting away from that.”

(Zind) About 30,000 people visited the old VINS center in Woodstock every year. With the new nature center on Vermont’s busiest east-west corridor, Drebitko expects the number to triple. It’s unclear what VINS will do with its property in Woodstock. It will continue to operate its North Branch Nature Center in Montpelier.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Quechee.

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