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Grand opening set for Wildcat Hills Nature Center and Shooting Complex

The newly expanded and renovated Wildcat Hills Nature Center
The newly renovated and expanded Wildcat Hills Nature Center stands as a premiere attraction and learning facility along Highway 71 south of Gering. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)

GERING, Neb. — The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is inviting the public to celebrate the completed construction at the Wildcat Hills Nature Center and Shooting Complex during a grand opening Saturday, June 24, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

The festivities will begin just south of the nature center with remarks and a ribbon cutting by Commission officials and partners involved with the two projects. A free hot dog lunch will be available while supplies last, and guided tours and other activities will entertain guests in the afternoon.

The Nature Center reopened for business earlier this year after a $2.35 million project that more than doubled its previous size with new exhibit and multipurpose space. The new family-friendly shooting complex opened in fall 2016 at a cost of $1.6 million with ranges for both rimfire and high-powered rifles, shotguns, pistols, air rifles and archery. The ranges will be open for the event.

Jim Douglas, director of Game and Parks, said the new construction is already proving to be a valuable asset for the Commission and western Nebraska.

“We are thankful to our partners and generous donors for helping make this a reality,” Douglas said. “These facilities expand opportunities for naturalist programs and provide a place for sportsmen, women and children to learn or enhance their shooting skills.”

The improvements have bolstered the Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area’s status as a premier western Nebraska visitor and educational attraction, complementing its 530 acres of parkland along Nebraska Highway 71 eight miles south of Gering.

Admission to the event is free, but vehicles must have a Nebraska Park Entry Permit. The permits are available at outdoornebraska.org or at the nature center and other vendors throughout the state.

About Justin Haag

Justin Haag has served the Commission as a public information officer in the Panhandle since 2013. His duties include serving as regional editor for NEBRASKAland Magazine. Haag was raised in southwestern Nebraska, where he developed a love for fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chadron State College in 1996, he worked four years as an editor and reporter at newspapers in Chadron and McCook. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, he worked 12 years as a communicator at Chadron State, serving as the institution’s media and public relations coordinator the last five. He and his wife, Cricket, live in Chadron, and have two children.

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