Fourteen months of construction and finishing touches paid off last Saturday afternoon, as folks gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the Jack Creek Preserve Outdoor Education Center.
Co-founder, Jon Fossel, said he believes there is no other place like the outdoor education center in the country.
“We have both the land and the education facility,” Fossel said. “Usually, it’s one or the other. You can teach much better about the outdoors in the outdoors.”
The outdoor education center adds to the numerous programs and camps the Jack Creek Preserve already provides for children and adults. Jon and Dottie Fossel created the 4,500-acre preserve in 2005. The land was protected as a haven for wildlife, hunting and conservation education. Its boundaries connect the northern and southern portions of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness and it carries a conservation easement that limits development and protects a wildlife corridor spanning from Yellowstone National Park to the Gallatin Valley.
Almost 40 Montana State University professors have agreed to teach classes for students, teachers, land managers, scouting groups and regional visitors at the center. Visitors will have plenty of room to make themselves at home. The outdoor education center sleeps about 30 people and has a shower house, too.
“It’s equally important to educate people on conservation, not just to do it,” Fossel said. He added that his dream is to connect the Jack Creek Trail to the Spanish Peaks Trail and have access to it for both the public and visitors to the outdoor education center.
Fossel was recently honored by Field and Stream magazine as an August “Hero of Conservation.” The magazine said Fossel will receive a $500 conservation grant from the magazine and partner Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. He is also eligible for the Heroes of Conservation grand prize, a new Toyota Tundra.
“Hunters and fishermen have never been afraid to roll up their sleeves and get to work in the name of protecting America’s wildlife and wild places, and Jon is a great example of that ethos hard at work,” Anthony Licata, Editorial Director of Field & Stream, said. “Conservation is and will always be an integral part of hunting and fishing, and men and women like Jon are crucial to keeping our traditions alive for generations to come.”
Field and Stream’s Heroes of Conservation program culminates each fall when the magazine names the “Conservation Hero of the Year” and awards him or her a new car. Six finalists, selected from the heroes profiled in the monthly editions of the magazine, are selected and flown to Washington D.C. for an awards gala where the winner is named and each finalist receives a $5,000 conservation grant from Toyota.
Fossel said he is happy to be in the running for this award. Any money or vehicle won would go to the Jack Creek Preserve to further its mission.