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CEDAR FALLS | The Hartman Reserve Nature Center revealed a $2.2 million plan to renovate and expand the center's interpretive center Thursday.

However, the plans come with a couple of obstacles. One is the undisturbed natural area around the existing center; the other is the price tag.

Tim Jones is working to address both issues. Jones, a partner at Struxture Architects, also sits on the Friends of the Hartman Reserve board. Jones designed plans for the expanded facility to fit mostly in the footprint of the existing interpretive center.

"What we're doing is touching the environment the least that we can by building where we're at," Jones said.

The Friends board has raised and donated $100,000 toward the project cost. Between that and private donations, about $250,000 has so far been raised.

The plans call for a ground-level entrance for easier accessibility; a bottom-floor classroom and library; a remodeled upstairs event area with a full wall of windows overlooking the reserve; a four-seasons room with a deck; and outdoor-accessible restrooms.

The Friends of Hartman board members have been examining ways to maximize programming and events at the center. With county and city budgets already stretched, board members took it upon themselves to plan and raise money, said Bob Frederick, board vice president.

The expanded space will allow events and educational programming simultaneously indoors and provide space for more people to enjoy the center in other areas.

"We don't have to juggle space and furniture," Steve Harding, board president.

Limited space at the interpretive center has hurt revenue, he added.

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"We do turn down events on a regular basis," Harding said.

Much of the event space at the center is part of the original camp cabin constructed on the reserve in 1939 and completed in 1940.

"It's not obsolete, but it doesn't meet our needs," said Paula Goetz, Friends of Hartman board member.

"We're trying to think about the needs for the next 70, 75 years," said Connie Svoboda, Hartman development coordinator.

Plans were developed with input from staff that run education workshops and programs, Harding said. The semi-finished basement will become a classroom and learning lab set up like a science classroom at most schools. It's designed to get messy, depending on the nature of the lesson and the students, said Frederick.

State Sen. Jeff Danielson was present for the Thursday event. He called the reserve a Cedar Valley treasure.

Now that plans and designs have been secured, the main push will be to raise funds for construction. On Thursday, a pair of Southdale Elementary School students, Henry Frederick and Vikash Ayyappan, presented the Friends of Hartman board with about $230 they raised through an in-school fundraiser. The Kiwanis Rough Risers of Cedar Falls also presented a check for $7,500.

The nature center is named after John C. Hartman, a Waterloo Courier publisher who teamed with the YMCA to purchased 56 acres of forested land along the Cedar River between Waterloo and Cedar Falls.

The area was used for camping and other programs into the 1970s. The Black Hawk County Conservation Board purchased the area in 1976 and turned it into an environmental education center renaming it Hartman Reserve Nature Center.

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