Great Plains Nature Center wins national ‘Partners in Conservation’ award

The Great Plains Nature Center, an outdoor education facility in east Wichita, has received a national award honoring its conservation efforts.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell bestowed the 2013 “Partners in Conservation” award on 20 public-private partnerships, including the Great Plains Nature Center, last month. Nationwide, 70 partnerships were nominated.

The award is given to projects that show extraordinary efforts to conserve natural resources. The Great Plains Nature Center – a partnership between Wichita, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – was recognized for its work with children, center director Lorrie Beck said.

“It’s almost unheard of for three agencies of that type to work and play well together,” Beck said. In the center’s case, “the three entities found that common mission (education) to focus on.”

“Being one of 20 partnerships being recognized at that high of a level is a big deal.”

Great Plains Nature Center, 6232 E. 29th St. North, opened in 2000. It sits on seven acres of federal property surrounded by Chisholm Creek Park and features nature trails and wildlife, including 25 live species on exhibit and a 2,200-gallon aquarium stocked with native fish.

The center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, except holidays. Admission is free.

Last year, 154,500 people visited or were served off-site through about 1,340 educational programs, Beck said.

“Just one agency could not do what we’ve done by itself,” she said.