On a hill overlooking 8,900 acres of prairie and marshy wetlands stands a newly constructed visitor center at Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area (FWA).
The old adage "think globally, act locally" has proven useful here — not only for nature lovers across Indiana, but also for the vast array of wildlife making this area a migratory destination point.
"Goose Pond is the work of visionaries," says Department of Natural Resources director Cameron Clark at the red-ribbon-cutting ceremony, acknowledging the many partners who made this enormous expanse of wildlife habitat conservation a reality. "This is a beautiful, eco-friendly building. But it's a tool. Our focus is to get people outside, to enjoy nature."
With 12,000 visitors a year, it helps to have a focal point: a place to get a map, ask questions and use the restrooms. A spacious wildlife viewing room provides extraordinary wall-to-wall windows, designed to prevent bird collisions. Landscaping around the building will be wildlife-friendly native prairie grasses.
Lee Sterrenburg, a founding member of Friends of Goose Pond and avid birder, says of the building, "It will revolutionize birding, with as many as 10,000 birds flying low to forage for food in the morning and within view."
Property manager Travis Stoelting explains the cutting-edge technology used in the 7,000-square-foot building. "It has a geothermal heating and cooling system and is built with sustainable and energy efficient materials." By early next year, Stoelting plans to include interpretive displays to highlight the history of Goose Pond and supply educational information about habitat types and the species that use them. Once the inside features are completed, signage will be added to help visitors find their way, along with accessible trails near the visitor center. The building also houses a regional office for the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife so staff can provide information and answer questions. Already, school buses and families are making their way to the new visitor center.
At Goose Pond, there is something to see every season. Depending on the time of year, there are tens of thousands of egrets, herons, ducks and geese, along with other shore birds, waterfowl and marsh birds, including Sandhill cranes, American white pelicans, and federally listed endangered whooping cranes.
Sterrenburg says excitedly, "We saw 65,000 waterfowl flying low against the backdrop of the red morning sun."
Bird sightings here have surpassed all expectations. According to Friends of Goose Pond, prior to 1997 there were no Sandhill crane records in the Greene County bird database. In 2013, the count reached an astounding 25,953 Sandhills at Goose Pond FWA. Sterrenburg notes that November through March offers some of the most impressive views. One annual, not-to-be-missed event is Marsh Madness, on March 4 – 5.
Daryn Lewellyn, Friends of Goose Pond President, says, "I took my car to a hill to look at a bald eagle's nest. A young couple and their children drove up next to me and got out. Suddenly, out of nowhere, 2,000 snow geese took flight right over our heads." In addition to the multitude of birds, there are frogs, (non-venomous) water snakes, muskrats, grasshoppers and butterflies.
Lewellyn smiles broadly. "Well done!" he says to everyone who made Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area possible. Those in attendance at the visitor center grand opening applaud loudly.
Take your cameras, take your children and take your friends to visit this amazing window into the magnificent world of wildlife.