The new Joseph J. and Helen M. Sommer Wildlife Conservation Center will open on June 9, 2018 with a Grand Opening Celebration from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a short ceremony and ribbon cutting at 10:30 a.m. and the doors officially opening at 11 a.m. Public areas of the building including the lobby, classroom, restrooms, and atrium will be open for viewing and tours along with live wildlife exhibits and conservation displays. A guided hike will take place to a new bridge connecting the Sippo Lake Trail and Sippo Lake Park. Complimentary refreshments will be provided.
Due to limited parking at the Genoa Ave. entrance to Sippo Lake Park-West, parking will be at New Life Church at the intersection of Genoa and 12th St. at 3542 12th St. NW, Massillon with an accessible shuttle to the event. Shuttles will run from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Parking is also available at the Exploration Gateway with a short walk to the new center using a recently paved limestone trail. Children are encouraged to bring their favorite stuffed animal for a wellness check-up from the wildlife dept.
The 9,400 sq. ft., $3 million facility is dedicated to conservation and rehabilitation of native wildlife and their habitat through research, education, and quality animal care. It includes indoor exam, quarantine, and recovery rooms for injured wildlife and outdoor enclosures for waterfowl, mammal, raptor, and songbird recovery. The center treats nearly 2,000 animals each year with a 60% release rate. The Wildlife ambassadors, animals that cannot be released back into the wild, represent their species at programs and events and will also reside at the center.
Research and office space will house staff and volunteers from the wildlife and natural resources department. Current collaborative projects include wetland monitoring, wildlife and species surveys, and land management and use. The center offers a hub for field work and research with local universities for service learning and internships.
Physical building elements also include window frit to help prevent birds from hitting the windows, cisterns for water collection and reuse, and bioswales to improve water quality and drainage around the building. A former natural surface hiking trail surrounding the center was converted to limestone for biking and hiking. The trail connects to the Exploration Gateway and the Sippo Lake Marina also around Sippo Lake Park.
The new center’s name is a testament to Joseph and Helen Sommer’s lifelong commitment to conservation and natural resources in Stark County and Ohio. Joe worked to establish the Stark County Park District in 1967, served as a park commissioner, county commissioner, and director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. During his time with ODNR, he was instrumental in adding more than 1,600 acres to state nature preserves. He has been inducted into the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Hall of Fame and the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association Hall of Fame for his service on both the state and local level as an advocate for conservation and preservation of natural resources.
Sommer continues to serve on the Board of the Friends of Stark Parks and financially contributed to the Wildlife Conservation Center in honor of his late wife, Helen.
Donations also made other aspects of the building possible including the Teke and Faye Heston Education Classroom and Alan and Lee Dolan Wildlife Viewing Room. A contribution from Dr. Gary Riggs and Wild4Ever will fund a raptor flight enclosure still to be built. A Wall of Friendship located in the lobby recognizes additional donors and partners that made the center a reality.
Posted on April 13, 2018 within Events, News, Parks