The long-awaited expansion of the Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center was celebrated Tuesday afternoon at the Center, with residents and community leaders, including Mayor Grant Degginger, King County Executive Ron Sims and Mercer Slough Campaign Co-chairs Jim Ellis and Jerry Henry, in attendance.
"We are excited about the opportunity to begin expanding the Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center," Mayor Degginger said. "This partnership of the City of Bellevue, the Pacific Science Center and Puget Sound Energy will allow more children to learn about environmental stewardship in an ideal lab, a 320-acre wetland in the heart of our city.
“Few cities have had the foresight to protect sensitive lands so close to their downtown core. This is a testament to Bellevue's longstanding commitment to environmental stewardship,” Degginger added.
The expanded Education Center will include a series of classrooms, wet labs and a visitor center, and will ultimately be able to serve 40,000 students annually from throughout the region. The first phase of construction is scheduled for completion in mid-2008.
The public-private partnership behind the project has involved local government, nonprofit and corporate leadership to generate the financial support for this initial phase of construction. The co-chairs, Henry of PSE and Ellis, a longtime community leader, will continue raising funds for construction of an additional classroom and lab space.
The Mercer Slough Nature Park, a 320-acre preserve, is the largest urban wetland park in the region. Skyscrapers form a backdrop to the Slough’s waterways, marshes, meadows and forests, which are home to a diverse population of wildlife.
"I can think of no better place to observe and practice the balance between our urban way of life and the vibrant natural systems around us than this outdoor laboratory on Mercer Slough," Ellis said. "This is a place where the children of our cities can see, touch and smell life at the edge between land and water."
"Mercer Slough provides an extraordinary venue for our environmental education programs," said Bryce Seidl, president and chief executive officer of the Pacific Science Center. "There is no substitute for learning in the real environment. This site and facility give students of all ages the chance to engage in hands-on learning in a very special outdoor laboratory. The City of Bellevue is a fine partner with us to help the public understand and enjoy our natural world."
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