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The new Austin Cary Learning Center to be dedicated Saturday

Artist's Concept of the new Austin Cary Research Center at Austin Cary Forest

Artist’s Concept of the new Austin Cary Research Center at Austin Cary Forest

GAINESVILLE ­– Three years ago, a fire destroyed the Austin Cary Learning Center, a university and community resource used by students, alumni, professionals and the community. On Saturday, its newly built replacement will be dedicated by the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation.

“The new learning center was truly a community and university effort,” said Tim White, director of the School, noting that more than half of the center’s $2 million budget came from private donations. “We’re extremely grateful that so many people came forward to help us with this project, providing generous donations of funds, materials, time and expertise.”

The dedication is set for 11:30 a.m. Saturday morning. The 7,800-square-foot building and deck will facilitate education and outreach events at Austin Cary Forest. It is larger and better-equipped than the conference center it replaces. Features, all utilizing state-of-the-art technology, include:

  • The Vam and E.T. York Gallery;
  • The Plum Creek Classroom;
  • The Harold and Juanita Mikell Library;
  • And a conference room.

There is also a full-sized catering kitchen and a large deck overlooking Lake Mize, one of the deepest lakes in Florida.  The facility complements the existing buildings of the Forest Campus: the Education Building, which includes two 20-person conference rooms; and the Teaching Pavilion, a 35-person screen room.

“Whether it is a group of professionals or local elementary school students, we hope to provide them with an enjoyable experience on Lake Mize, while teaching them about the many important roles that forests play in their lives,” said Jack Payne, the Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Florida. “Thousands will benefit from activities on-site at the new Learning Center, and many programs taught here will be offered via distance education to audiences statewide and beyond.”

Other major donors include: Ralph Jowett and Leonard Wood of Jowett & Wood, Inc., who provided heart pine flooring and carpet; Goethe State Forest, which gave cypress wood; Suwannee Lumber Company, which donated cypress mulch; Bill Whitehurst of V.E. Whitehurst and Sons, Inc., who prepared the building site; Jacksonville-based forest products company Rayonier, which donated $75,000; the Florida Farm Bureau, which gave $50,000;  Wayne Smith and Mitzi Austin, who provided one of the first donations by naming the exterior deck.

Austin Cary Forest, is about six miles northeast of Gainesville on Waldo Road, also known as State Road 24. Austin Cary Forest is a 2,000-acre forest managed to support the mission of the School of Forest Resources & Conservation, within the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.  The Forest, an outdoor teaching lab for courses, research studies, and Extension sites used for demonstration purposes, is utilized by a wide variety of academic units.  The Forest provides a variety of habitats and conditions, including areas managed with frequent prescribed fire to mimic pre-European conditions, as well as intensively-managed pine plantations, and most conditions in-between.

The facility is available for rental on a daily basis for both University of Florida and public functions, including weddings.  Visit http://sfrc.ufl.edu/forestcampus for details.

The dedication comes as part of the third annual SFRC Spring Celebration, during which alumni and friends of the School reconnect, recreate and learn about SFRC’s latest achievements. Many activities are planned for Friday and Saturday, including:

Friday

9am – 5pm – Graduate Student Symposium  – Straughn Extension Center

3:30pm-6:30pm – Trap/Skeet Tournament – Gainesville Airport

7pm – Combined Social – Blue Gill Quality Foods

Saturday

11:30am – 12:30pm – Learning Center Dedication  – Austin Cary Forest

12:30pm – 1:30pm – Lunch – Austin Cary Forest

1:30pm-2:30pm – Faculty/Student/Alumni Awards Ceremony – Austin Cary Forest

2:30pm-4pm – Field Day Events – Austin Cary Forest

Starts at 4pm – Bonfire and  Square Dancing – Austin Cary Forest

To register for the Spring Celebration, go to: http://sfrc.ufl.edu/about/events/spring-celebration-2014/

By:  Kimberly Moore Wilmoth, 352-294-3302, k.moore.wilmoth@ufl.edu

Source: Scott Sager, 352-317-7675, sasager@ufl.edu