BYRON, Minn. - Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo's popularity is growing. Visitor surveys and car counts show an increase of about 25,000 more park visitors per year. The park expects to see 400,000 people visit the park in 2020.
The Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission chose Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo as one of its recommended recipients to receive funding from the state's Parks and Trails Legacy Fund. If approved by state legislature in May, it will receive $2.1 million to build a new nature center.
The park has outgrown its existing nature center.
"Our restrooms, our facilities, our exhibits are just not big enough to house the big crowds we're getting anymore," explains Olmsted County Park Superintendent Karlin Ziegler.
The new nature center will be three times bigger than the current nature center. It will not only give the park more space, but also allow the park to expand its educational programming and host weddings, parties, and meetings.
"We'd be looking at adding some additional naturalists to help us to handle the demand of schools. Right now, we turn away some schools. We can only handle so many a year and there is a demand out there, we just don't have the staff and the space to accommodate that demand," explains park manager Lonnie Hebl.
If the funding is approved, Oxbow will break ground on the new nature center in 2021 and complete it in 2022. The current nature center will stay open during construction.
Olmsted County asks the community to support the park to help cover the remaining costs of building a new facility. Community donations help keep taxes down and park admission free.