TUPPER LAKE - It's been a long time coming, but construction of the Wild Walk is finally underway.
Once complete, the handicap-accessible elevated walkway will be The Wild Center nature museum's newest installation. It might be its most unique feature, too.
The finished project is slated to open next year on July 4, the museum's nine-year anniversary. It will include a series of platforms connected by suspension bridges and walkways, all interlaced with educational exhibits created by Wild Center staff.
Joel Harmon, left, and Ryan Gill of Phoenix Welding and Fabricating work on one of the towers that will become part of The Wild Center’s new Wild Walk exhibit in Tupper?Lake.
(Enterprise photo — Shaun Kittle)
This 40-foot tower is one of six that will be erected for The Wild Center’s new Wild Walk exhibit.
(Enterprise photo — Shaun Kittle)
"The whole concept is to give people a different perspective as they go from the forest floor to the tree canopy," said David St. Onge, manager of grounds at The Wild Center.
Building began Tuesday, and the vision for the Wild Walk is already apparent, even though the footprint for the project is minimal. Several branching paths lead to foundations that will soon support six sets of steel pillars, which will rise about 40 feet above the forest floor in a teepee shape.
The components of the Wild Walk were constructed in a warehouse by Phoenix Welding and Fabricating over the winter. Two of the steel teepees were erected Wednesday afternoon by workers from that company.
Once they're all in place, the teepees will hold the various attractions, which include a raptor nest, a log "uber-twig" treehouse and an enormous spiderweb made from cargo netting.
Wild walkers will be able to interact with everything once the structure is complete. Stairs will lead to the raptor nest, where a view of the surrounding forest and the Adirondack High Peaks awaits. The treehouse will be open for exploration, and the spider web will be climbable.
A portion of the Wild Walk will also give people a look at life in the tree canopy of an Adirondack forest. Blinds there will enable visitors to observe birds in nearby tree branches without the birds observing them.
Around the corner from the bird blinds, a replica of a white pine snag, or standing dead tree, will contain a spiral staircase. As visitors go through the snag, they will learn how organisms like fungi, insects and woodpeckers depend on dead trees.
At the bottom of the snag, a life-sized wood carving of a snoozing black bear and its cub will greet explorers.
COST of Wisconsin, a company that specializes in themed exhibitions, took a digital photo of white pine tree bark and is using that to create an exact replica for the snag's bark.
St. Onge said talk of a new installation began in 2006 as an outline for a single-tower structure with an educational focus on birds.
"We decided we needed to do something different here and create something that wasn't so linear," St. Onge said. "We explored a lot of different things, but we've also managed to keep it educational."
The final exhibition is a collaboration of the museum staff's creative input throughout the years. In that time, ideas were developed and kept while others were scrapped. A suggestion to put in a treetop zipline was tossed aside, but the larger-than-life spiderweb has endured.
Even though the $5.5 million project has begun, fundraising for it isn't finished. The Wild Center has received two New York State Economic Development Council grants, one for $250,000 and another for $1 million, and has received about another $1.25 million in donations. If the project is to be completed, another $3 million must be raised.
Contact Shaun Kittle at 891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.