Expanding environmental education opportunities
through a new vision for the Mackenzie Center
A commentary by Cathy Stepp, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
We will be releasing the Request for Proposals (RFP) for the MacKenzie Center.
The volumes of comments in support of MacKenzie have helped us to realize what we already knew. MacKenzie is valued and that our decision to enhance the programming there, including environmental education, was the right one to make.
The feedback we received from you, the public, internal staff experts, the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, local officials, national experts, and the Friends of Mackenzie has been invaluable to help us construct what we believe is an excellent RFP that will build upon the existing programs.
The goal all along has been to position MacKenzie to be a self-sustaining education center serving young and old in general environmental education, outdoor skills and mentorship training. I believe this proposal does just that.
We have heard that environmental education and current program at MacKenzie are important to continue. Our RFP reflects that.
There are also other aspects deemed important including the maple syrup events, the animals, involving the friends groups, and outdoor skills. All of this is also reflected in the RFP.
The RFP requires that the contractor needs to provide a robust K-12 environmental education program, which complies with state and local academic standards.
The DNR is committed to environmental education, and we are also committed to making sure hunting and other outdoor pursuits remain a vibrant part of our culture and economy. We believe our new vision of offering outdoor skills, and a first of its kind mentor training center is compatible with an enhanced environmental education program.
Our approach will maximizes environmental education for all of our citizens, as well as expand the use of what is a fantastic facility.
In response to the period of time between August and January of this year, the winning bidder must include a plan for interim education at the facility until such a time that their full curriculum is up and running.
In addition, we will be discussing with the Wildlife Federation and friends groups options for interim coverage, as well as options for department coverage on a limited basis.
A small firearms training range of 50 yards or less, built to the strictest safety guidelines for instruction and classes is what is being considered. This is not an open public range. Its purpose would be to facilitate training.
The dormitories will continue to be part of the offerings at MacKenzie, and we are prepared to offer additional weight to those proposals that provide overnight lodging and multiple day programs in their proposal.
Regarding the animals on site that are located within the wildlife exhibit. Care and use standards along with a plan for short and long term care of the animals will be a requirement of all proposals.
In addition to the RFP being an open public process, we have committed to local officials and representatives that we are willing to meet with the public to discuss the RFP. Also, after the contract has been awarded, there will be opportunities to hold open houses or other meetings which will include the successful vendor.
We are looking to take the MacKenzie Center to the next level of educational offerings. It is an exciting time and we can't wait to see the proposals and ideas that come forward.
The department has a very successful track record of privately funded and run education and recreational programs and facilities on our properties. We believe MacKenzie can be another example of such a partnership.