Raptor Center earns beautification distinction
Improvements to the Kansas Raptor Center are happening inside and the outside. The Great Bend Beautification Committee named the Raptor Center as its most recent Beatification Award winner. Realizing the front area was in a flood plain, the Brit Spaugh Zoo staff member John Zimmerman put his green-thumb ingenuity to use.
He built mounds for the flowers and created a conservation edge around the display to divert water away from the flowers and grasses. The front garden area is still ongoing, and the zoo relies on volunteers from St. Francis Community Services to maintain the area.
The garden consists of coreopsis, wild geraniums, zebra grasses and big bluegrass.
Walk into the Kansas Raptor Center at Brit Spaugh Zoo and you’ll instantly enter the world of Ornithology. Instead of feeling like you are studying birds, however, you will feel like you just encountered them in their natural habitat. Three permanent exhibits with life-like birds, trees, grasses and plants were installed in early July, and three traveling exhibits were also added. The exhibits provide a fun way to learn for kids of all ages, said Brit Spaugh Zoo Director Scott Gregory.
“I’m ecstatic that we have it,” said Gregory, about the addition to the Raptor Center, located at North Main in Great Bend. “My big thing is that If you can keep kids happy and entertained you are doing a good job because they will educate themselves that way. It’s like when we do animal shows and we bring animals out for little kids, they love it. They interact with the animals and they learn something in the process. In the case of the exhibits, they get to play with some gadgets up here and it’s all educational and they’ll remember it.”
The exhibits promote learning about birds of prey, migratory birds to nearby Cheyenne Bottoms, and the rehabilitation process done for birds of prey at the Raptor Center. The exhibits are interactive with buttons, pull-outs videos and other functions, which keep young children engaged in the learning process.
“It’s all educational with kids in mind,” explained Gregory. “Little kids can play around on them. We made sure it was kid friendly.”
While built kid friendly and durable, Gregory said there is information throughout the exhibits that will interest everyone.
“There is information on those displays that even I didn’t know,” he explained. “I learned something and I work with animals every day. Nobody knows everything. “
Planning for the exhibits began two years earlier with fundraising and grants requests. But once the money was raised and the exhibits were purchased, progress for the installation of the exhibits moved quickly. Gregory said the building of the exhibits began just before summer and the actual installation took about five days.
It’s safe to assume that several thousand people a year will view the exhibits. Gregory approximated that 55,000 people visited the zoo last year, during his first year as director. With the Raptor Center being the prime entrance to the Brit Spaugh Zoo, he estimates that 90 percent of the zoo traffic will encounter the exhibits. The bird exhibits will also attract visitors who travel the area’s scenic byway, as well as visitors to Cheyenne Bottoms and the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in neighboring Stafford County.