Carolina Raptor Center in Huntersville has launched the public phase of an $11.6 million campaign to expand its public educational offerings and care for injured birds of prey.
The nonprofit center, in Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, is among just a handful in North America dedicated to the conservation of raptors. Its science education programs reach at least 27,000 students each year. Its raptor trail and environmental education center annually draw 35,000 or more visitors.
After nearly a decade of discussion, the center is partnering with Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation to create a Quest Adventure Center at the Latta Plantation Nature Preserve.
The campaign would finance a 13,000-square-foot, Mecklenburg County-owned education center, a new raptor trail system and an expanded raptor medical center.
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The education center would include interactive exhibits focused on the ecosystem at Mountain Island Lake; expanded indoor-outdoor learning spaces with year-round programming; increased administrative space for staff and volunteers; and improvements for visitors including a 1,000-square-foot gift shop.
The new trail system would feature a modern resident bird care facility and exhibit, aviaries for more than 35 raptor species, and an amphitheater.
Money from the “Our Quest” campaign also would increase space at the center’s medical facility for treating injured birds of prey, including eagles, owls and hawks.
Under the direction of staff veterinarian Dave Scott, more than 900 injured and orphaned raptors are treated there each year – an increased patient load of 34 percent since 2008. About 75 percent of the raptors that live longer than 24 hours are rehabilitated and released into the wild.
“This project has been a long-held dream for all of us at Carolina Raptor Center,” executive director Jim Warren said. “This is a once-in-a-generation project that I know will have a positive impact on the community for generations to come.”
Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2017, with a planned summer 2018 opening of the new center and raptor trail. Medical campus work is scheduled to begin early next year.
The environmental education center will be a gateway to Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, which boasts the highest number of visitors of any of Mecklenburg County’s nature preserves and connects almost half a million people a year “to the natural beauty of North Carolina’s Piedmont region,” Warren and Jim Garages, director of Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation said in a joint statement announcing the campaign.
The center already has secured $8.8 million for the project, including a leadership gift from the Duke Energy Foundation and two “cornerstone” donations from Charlotte area residents
Duke Energy committed the largest single gift in the history of the center, pledging $400,000 toward building the amphitheater, which will be named for Duke Energy, and to support construction of the raptor trail.
Bruce Roberts, founder and retired president of Falcon Metal Corp., and his wife, Nancy, donated $300,000 to the campaign – the largest gift from individuals. The Roberts began volunteering over 20 years ago at the then-fledgling center. Bruce Roberts is a former board chair of the organization, leads the “Quest Chairman’s Circle” and belongs to the “Our Quest” Campaign Cabinet.
Ross Annable, retired president of First Union Securities, and his wife, Michele, gave $250,000. Ross Annable has been a financial supporter of the organization for nearly two decades and belongs to the “Our Quest” Campaign Cabinet.
Carolina Raptor Center must raise an additional $1.8 million to build the raptor trail and renovate the raptor medical center. A $1 million endowment is also being raised.
Campaign details: carolinaraptorcenter.org/support/quest-campaign/.