GLEN ELLYN – Work has begun at Willowbrook Wildlife Center to improve the experiences of its visitors – both human and animal – by renovating and expanding its various features.
Phase one of the construction, which is part of Willowbrook's master plan, includes renovating the parking lot by adding 45 new spaces and using permeable pavers as its surface.
This work began Oct. 16 and is expected to be completed by mid-December.
Due to the construction, parking is limited at the site itself, but visitors may park at nearby St. James the Apostle Catholic Church, 480 S. Park Blvd. The center will remain open to the public during this first phase of work.
Despite limited parking, drop-off areas near the center for injured animals will be available during construction.
"No matter what, we're going to be there for an injured animal," said Sandy Fejt, education site manager.
Willowbrook Wildlife Center is owned and operated at 525 S. Park Blvd. by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. It focuses on the rehabilitation of injured and orphaned animals, as well as community education about wildlife.
In addition to constructing a new parking lot, the master plan also includes improvements to Willowbrook's visitor center, animal rehabilitation areas, exhibits and other outdoor spaces.
Changes in the master plan will help provide larger, more naturalized environments for animals, Fejt said.
Another aspect of phase one of the plan includes building an addition to the center's current service area to create a space for rehabilitating endangered animals.
This work will begin after construction of the new parking lot is complete, Fejt said.
The total cost associated with the master plan projects is expected to total $16 to $20 million, she said. While the center has the necessary funds to pay for phase one, which will cost about $3.6 million, it must fundraise to afford the remaining improvements.
Fall has been a busy time so far for the center, which saw more than 1,000 injured animals during the first two weeks of October, Fejt said.
Even with the hectic season, construction hasn't caused any issues for staff and volunteers, who worked with the planning teams associated with the project to ensure center operations could continue.
"We're just taking it day by day," Fejt said.