Oxbow Park Nature Center project on short list to receive Parks and Trails Legacy Grant
1/7/2020 Policy, Analysis and Communications

Park sign for Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo
The Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission has selected Olmsted County’s Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo as one of its recommended recipients to receive funding from the state’s Parks and Trails Legacy Fund. Of the 22 applications sent in for 2020, the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission selected nine projects to recommend to the State Legislature for funding, and the Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo Nature Center project made that short list. If approved by the Legislature, Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo will receive $2.1 million for its nature center project.  

“This is exciting news for us,” stated Olmsted County Park Superintendent Karlin Ziegler. “More space is definitely needed to accommodate the demand at Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo and construction of a larger nature center facility will allow us to better meet that demand. The design features more space for educational programming, larger exhibits and restrooms.”  

Ziegler states that events and public programming at Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo have increased 25-30% each year and naturalist-led classes and zoo visits have increased as much as 20% per year over the last 10 years. 

“Visitor surveys and car counts show an increase of about 25,000 more park visitors per year and we are estimating about 400,000 people will visit the park in 2020,” continued Ziegler.   

Ziegler noted that Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo is a community resource visited by students of various educational providers in the region.  

“More than 125 schools and youth groups visit Oxbow Park from a radius of nearly 100 miles,” she said. “During spring, our peak time, there were more than 900 students scheduled to be in the Zoo and Nature Center in a four-hour timeframe. Our existing restrooms are far too small to accommodate the large crowds at peak times.”  

The design for the new Oxbow Park nature center also incorporates plans for the center to be large enough to host events such as weddings, birthday parties and meetings. 

Olmsted County will be seeking additional support for the Oxbow Park Nature Center to fund the project costs not covered by the grant. 

“Oxbow Park Nature Center and Zollman Zoo have been greatly supported by donations in the past and we hope to continue receiving support from the community to keep taxpayer costs down and maintain an admission free facility,” said Ziegler.  

Final approval on the recipients of the 2020 Parks and Trails Legacy Grants is expected by the Minnesota Legislature in May 2020. The new nature center at Oxbow Park is expected to open in the fall of 2022.