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New exhibit coming to Lost Valley Visitor Center

Published: Saturday, June 28, 2014 11:24 p.m. CDT

RINGWOOD – Shipping crates sit near the entrance. Inside the exhibit, large wardrobe trunks and crates showcase field science equipment, mounted taxidermy and graphic panels.

The place is changeable, interactive, highlights the collections at Glacial Park’s Lost Valley Visitor Center – and doesn’t exist yet.

The concept designs have been prepared and ready for implementation since the McHenry County Conservation District’s Board of Trustees approved them in 2012.

And now that the state has awarded the conservation district a $400,000 grant, the “Passport to Adventure” exhibit can be built.

The grant is among $20 million awarded by Gov. Pat Quinn to 47 museums across the state to improve facilities and develop new exhibits, according to a news release.

The conservation district has two years to use the grant dollars, moving through the construction and installation phases. A grand opening for the exhibit is planned for 2016.

The conservation district has been scaling back some of its services – including shorter hours at the Lost Valley Visitor Center – as it prepares for the revenue it receives from property taxes to drop in the coming years. A statutory cap on the district’s tax rate will cause revenues to fall as long as property values fall.

The Lost Valley Visitor Center is located in Glacial Park, the conservation district’s largest site at over 3,300 acres. The number of visitors reached 30,000 in 2013, according to district estimates.

The goal of the new “Passport to Adventure” room is to educate visitors about the ecosystems and geology of Glacial Park, and he exhibit will change as the seasons progress, according to project plans.

The three main habitats found in the park will be explored through dioramas and artifacts housed in large wardrobe trucks. A large oak tree will branch out from floor to ceiling. The room will exit onto a deck that overlooks the park.

“The new exhibits are designed to spark curiosity and interest, to encourage exploration and to help visitors better understand what they will experience in the park,” Education Services Manager Deb Chapman said.

The elements can be removed so the room can be opened up for other uses, according to the plans.

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