Explore nature at education center - East Valley Tribune: Living Green

Explore nature at education center

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Posted: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 7:30 pm | Updated: 10:50 am, Thu Nov 4, 2010.

Today, a nature education center sits on the banks of the Salt River, fostering a culture of habitat conservation for future generations. At the heart of the $100 million riparian habitat restoration project, along a once dry river bed that divided our community, the center provides a place for the community to come together to enjoy a lush habitat used by many species of birds and other wildlife. The mission of the center is to provide nature education programs to an underserved and socio-economically and ethnically diverse population. The Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Education Center was the vision of many, but a reality made possible by one woman, tirelessly dedicated to the cause.

Sam Campana, former mayor of Scottsdale and the founding director of Audubon Arizona, is truly a woman that deserves recognition. In addition to founding the State office of the National Audubon Society, in 2004, Sam took on the daunting task for raising $7 million to build a nature education center, at one of the toughest economic time periods ever experienced. Her connections, her reputation, her perseverance and belief in the cause, were key to the success. Her passion allowed her to engage the community in our shared goals for environmental stewardship.

Today, urban residents connect with the natural word and are inspired to take conservation action. The Rio Salado Audubon Center illustrates how innovative design, thoughtful construction and a community committed to the environment can work together to create an educational and environmental success story.

At the October of 2010 Valley Forward Environmental Excellence Awards, Sam Campana and the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Education Center, received the President's Award, the most prestigious award to be given. SRP, Valley Forward and a distinguished panel of judges were proud to recognize Sam and her lifetime achievement for this outstanding project.

On behalf of the National Audubon Society and nature lovers, present and future, young and old, I adamantly can attest to the fact that Sam Campana has left a legacy that will outlive us all. Without a personal commitment by people at all levels of our society, we can never make a difference in protecting our planet. One person can make a difference. Sam made a difference by our realization of a dream for a nature education center - and through that Center a conservation ethic will be taught and realized by thousands for generations to come.

Lori Singleton is manager of sustainability initiatives and technologies at SRP.

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