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County ready to show off Schaar's Bluff gathering center

The Dakota County Parks Department will hold a party Sunday, Sept. 7, and the public is invited.

The opening of the Schaar's Bluff Gathering Center in Spring Lake Park Reserve will be celebrated from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and includes music, kite flying, story telling and live animals.

The Schaar's Bluff Gathering center is located at the west end of the park in Rosemount. The 3,600-square foot building was designed and built to be self-sustaining. A wind turbine generates electricity, and collected rainwater is used to flush the water in the restrooms.

The estimated cost of the building is about $2.3 million, but 90 percent of the funding used to build it came from Flint Hills Resources as part of a federal environmental trust fund fine several years ago.

The facility features a kitchen, outdoor gathering space, three fire pits (one near the bluff) and a year-round meeting space for 75 people. The main piece of the sustainability effort is the 39-kilowatt turbine, the largest allowed by law unless operated by a utility.

Each year, the turbine is expected to produce enough electricity to power the gathering center.

In addition to the turbine, other green features of the building include a roof that will capture and reuse rainwater, an efficient wood stove capable of releasing heat as needed, and a building design that will decrease energy needs. A grassy knoll area provides space for a temporary stage, when needed. A half mile of trail is part of the work.

Spring Lake Park is located along the south shore of the Mississippi River in Nininger township between Rosemount and Hastings. The park lies along one of the few Mississippi River stretches that flows west to east.

Sunday's schedule of activities is as follows:

• 2 p.m.: Raptor Center presentation;

• 3 p.m.: grand opening ceremony, 3 p.m.; and

3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.: activities for families, including Appalachian music by the Mill City Grinders, live animals from Carpenter Nature Center, kite flying, river interpretation by the National Park Service, and American Indian story telling.

Old-fashioned kettle corn will be available.