What's That New Building in Austin Gardens?

By Laurie Casey

On Saturday June 11, the Park District of Oak Park will hold a community celebration to mark the opening of Oak Park's new, state-of-the-art Austin Gardens Environmental Education Center, located north of the intersection of Forest Avenue and Lake Street.

It looks like a terrific morning. We hope to see you all there (before or after the Farmers’ Market, of course).  The morning kicks off with a free yoga class from 9 to 9:45 a.m. The festivities begin at 10 a.m. with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Visitors can enjoy music, give-aways, light refreshments, "Ask the Turf and Tree Expert," children's crafts and tours of the Platinum LEED-designed facility.

This community center devoted to the environment is exactly our cup of kombucha. The building features many energy-efficient and high performance design elements: geo-thermal system, photovoltaic array, green roof, rain water harvesting, rain garden and bioswales.

The 2,100 square foot Environmental Education Center contains two classrooms, as well as bathrooms (which Summer Festival Theater-goers will appreciate). Fifty classes related to environmental topics for all ages are planned for this fall, including ECO-Rangers classes for kids. Some programs for pre-schoolers are already filled, says Diane Stanke, director of marketing and customer service at the Park District of Oak Park.

"We look forward to welcoming the community to our grand opening," says Stanke.

If you go, take a photo of your family in or outside of the Education Center and post it to the GCC Facebook page.  We'll repost it and encourage others to check out class offerings and other upcoming events.