Austin Cary Forest Learning Center to break ground
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — This spring, the University of Floridaâ€™s School of Forest Resources and Conservation has two reasons to celebrate:
One is the annual SFRC Spring Celebration on April 5-6. Here, alumni and friends of the School reconnect, recreate and learn about SFRCâ€™s latest achievements.
The other reason: This yearâ€™s celebration includes a special milestone — groundbreaking for the new Austin Cary Forest Learning Center at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
Dignitaries speaking at the groundbreaking include UF President Bernie Machen and UF Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources Jack Payne.
â€śThis groundbreaking marks a huge step forward for the School of Forest Resources and Conservation,â€ť Payne said. â€śThousands will benefit from activities on-site at the new Learning Center, and many programs taught here will be offered via distance education to audiences statewide and beyond.â€ť
The 7,800-square-foot building will facilitate education and outreach events at Austin Cary Forest. Itâ€™s larger and better-equipped than the conference center it replaces, said Tim White, director of the School. That facility was destroyed in a fire in July 2011.
â€śThe new learning center will truly be a university and community resource that will be used by students, alumni, professionals and the general community. So, whether it is a group of engineers or county planners or third-graders, we hope to provide them with a serene, enjoyable experience on Lake Mize while teaching them about the many important roles that forests play in their lives,â€ť White said. â€śWeâ€™re extremely grateful that so many people came forward to help us with this project, providing generous donations of funds, materials, time and expertise.â€ť
The groundbreaking ceremony takes place at the centerâ€™s construction site in Austin Cary Forest, which is about six miles northeast of Gainesville on Waldo Road, also known as State Road 24. A map is available at http://sfrc.ufl.edu/about/events/spring-celebration.
Covering about 2,080 acres, the Austin Cary Forest hosts UF projects in academic teaching, research, Extension education and demonstration. Most of the acreage was obtained in the late 1930s and it has been a cornerstone of the UF forest resources program ever since.
Preparation at the site has been ongoing for several months, but the project still needs to raise about $100,000 to achieve its fundraising goal of $1.5 million, said Scott Sager, an SFRC education coordinator and forester.
â€śIâ€™m confident that weâ€™ll raise this last amount quickly, because we get such tremendous support from the private sector and concerned individuals,â€ť Sager said. â€śIn the meantime, we are excited to move forward with a new chapter for the Forest.â€ť
The groundbreaking is the highest-profile event of Spring Celebration 2013, but many others are scheduled.
On Friday, there is a canoe trip at Ichetucknee Springs, a trap and skeet shoot competition, the annual Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences graduate student symposium and a downtown dinner and social.
Saturday events include the Flatwoods 5K runnersâ€™ race and one-mile fun run; a geomatics golf tournament; groundbreaking for the Austin Cary Forest Learning Center; a barbecue and awards ceremony and afternoon field day events, music and socializing.
The University of Floridaâ€™s School of Forest Resources and Conservation strives to offer the finest quality education, research and Extension programs in the forest sciences.
To register for the Spring Celebration, visit http://sfrc.ufl.edu/about/events/spring-celebration or call 352-846-0850.