Lehman looks to spring for visitor's center construction

Authored by Jim Langham on Jan 6, 2012

Randy Lehman, director of the Limberlost State Historic Site, said on Thursday that there are still some intricate paper work details before the actual construction of the new welcome center can begin.
Lehman said that while the project is a definite go and groundbreaking has already occurred, there are a couple of things that have to happen before actual construction begins.
First, there is a historic preservation issue. The project is delayed right now because that division has to sign off the project. Secondly, there is an issue with American Electric Power, also referred to as I&M Power.
"They need a right of way in writing in order to develop an electrical site," said Lehman. "This project runs through the Department of Natural Resources so there are still a lot of hoops to jump. They assure us that it is moving forward and will no doubt by spring, if not before, construction will get underway.
"We have raised the money; we had ground breaking on Oct. 31," continued Lehman. "Everyone thought for a long time that it would be good to have a visitor's center. When I came here 13 years ago it was obvious that a visitor's site was needed. The house is so cold upstairs and the restroom facilities to the public are very inconvenient. This center is going to bring the site much more into the 21 century in every way."
Lehman said that the contract for the project was awarded to Arnold Construction in Decatur. He noted that the business is currently finishing up with a school system in Wells County. They have already moved a trailer to the
Limberlost site so they are planning on coming soon, Lehman said.
The welcome center is designed to be 4,000 square feet, approximately 40 by 90 in dimensions. The structure will include classroom potential for teaching and lectures, gift shop and information center, modern restrooms, offices for the historic site and offices for the Department of Natural Resources working on the wetland project in southern Adams County and northern Jay County.
Lehman said that the average of 5,000 visitors who come to the site would be able to enjoy a bird viewing area and large exhibit space, as well.
According to Lehman, the current project is estimated at $825,500 – $385,000 of the funding comes from state funds, said Lehman.
"People down at the state level were very impressed with the way our support came through. They said they had never seen a small community like ours to stand by a project with such substantial help," said Lehman. "They said that it was hard to believe that our people stood by this like that."
Lehman said that he would never forget the day that the late Jim Briggs, banker with First Bank of Geneva, approached him and asked him what would be needed to get things going.
"I still remember him looking at me and saying, 'Oh, I think we can get that done,'" said Lehman. "This was all such a help to me personally and surprising to the people down in Indianapolis."
Other funding came from Indiana Heritage Trust, Indiana State Museum, Historic Site Donation Account and Friends of the Limberlost Campaign. Large contributions were made possible through the Bank of Geneva, Limberlost Conservation Association and Friends of the Limberlost.
"The welcome center completes mandates for the Americans With Disabilities Act; we expect for to increase the number of visitors by increasing site visibility and visitor amenities," said Lehman. "The good part about it is that it will not only function as a visitor center for Limberlost, but a welcome center for Adams County.
"One great thing is that it will provide greater protection for existing artifacts," continued Lehman. "Current usage of the house museum puts many historic components at risk. The new facility will allow larger groups to enjoy the historic site, particularly during bad weather and during winter months."

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