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Barr Lake spreads wings with $1.5 million nature center remodel

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Addition doubles size of visitor center

By Andrea Tritschler

A bald eagle spread his wings as Peter Reshetiniak, president of the Raptor Education Foundation, introduced him to a crowd of people gathered at the Barr Lake State Park nature center.

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The 2-year-old eagle has a wing span of seven feet, and, like many in attendance, looked around curiously at his surroundings – the newly remodeled visitors’ center.

On a rainy Friday afternoon, Barr Lake’s nature center re-opened with a $1.5 million, 3,000-square-foot addition, almost doubling the size of the facility. Volunteers and visitors alike are particularly excited about the new bathrooms – the old nature center didn’t have any indoor bathrooms. There’s also a new entryway, a volunteer room and an education room.

The renovations were funded in part by a grant from the Adams County Parks and Open Space Department as well as partnerships with Great Outdoors Colorado, Ducks Unlimited, the city of Brighton, the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies and the West Adams Conservation District.

With the larger space, visitors will have more options and the state park will have more opportunities for events and activities in the center.

“We want to inspire people in the nature center to go outside, not just here but in their neighborhood too,” said Michelle Seubert, park manager.

The nature center has interactive models for kids, including a “wheel of migration,” which follows a bird’s migratory patterns and dangers it faces along the way. Stuffed animals round out the attractions, including a life-sized, taxidermied buffalo, a variety of pelts and antlers and a shy rabbit named Turbo.

“I think it’s fabulous,” said volunteer Jane Whiteley. “I’m so happy for Michelle, it’s a real testament to her.”

Seubert, Barr Lake park manager since 2007, was instrumental to the renovations, according to volunteers and park staff. No one could talk about the renovations without mentioning Seubert.

She received a stone plaque from Mark Leslie, Colorado Parks and Wildlife northeast region manager, as a ‘thank you’ for the time and work she dedicated for the visitors center.

“Twenty years ago, no one was out here, no one was really coming here,” Joanne Osborne, a park volunteer, said. “Now, I just heard we had 300-some people at an event last week.”

Margie Hoffman, a former volunteer, echoed those statements, praising Seubert for getting more people involved in the state park, especially kids.

“She’s worked so hard on this,” said volunteer Jeanette Scherbarth. “She’s a force of nature.”

While nature didn’t seem to be on the park’s side in terms of weather for the event, the community was, with around 100 people in attendance to eat food, admire the bald eagle, bid on auction items and celebrate the milestone in the park’s history.

Barr Lake State Park has an 8.8-mile trail for biking, hiking or bird-watching around the lake. Bird watchers have noted more than 350 species of bird have been spotted at the park, which also offers fishing and archery.

“We didn’t know what to expect. This is incredible,” Whiteley said.

The live and silent auction raised money for a golf cart to accommodate wheelchairs, something the park currently doesn’t have.  Barr Lake received a $20,000 grant from Great Outdoors Colorado and workers are trying to raise the extra $3,000 needed to purchase a golf cart.

While the Friday, March 31, event drew many adults, the Saturday re-opening activities were centered around kids.

“I like (the center a lot),” said Carlie Nickolaus, a fourth-grader from Brighton. “I always make new friends here.”

Barr Lake has events throughout spring and summer with opportunities to learn a new skill, discover a new animal or just enjoy being in nature.

The Barr Lake Nature Center is located near the south parking lot and is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call (303) 659-6005 for more information about upcoming programs.