HANNA CITY — Wildlife Prairie Park officials plan to start construction within weeks on a new series of cabins overlooking the bison and elk enclosure at the park.
The new facilities are perhaps the most visible part of a $2.4 million capital campaign recently launched by the foundation that operates the park.
They'll "really enhance the quality of the lodging we have available here," foundation president Mark Spenny said Wednesday morning at the construction site, which is just beginning to be flagged off at the southern end of the animal enclosure.
New fences will be erected, enabling the animals to approach the back decks of the cabins.
"The heart of this campaign is moving the park to a sustainable structure," Spenny said.
Cabin rentals — including from existing cabins and cabooses on the property — have proved to be a solid generator of net revenue for park operations, and rentals continue throughout the year, even when the park sees fewer visitors, generating some 1,400 room night stays annually.
Part of the fundraising is also to establish a reserve fund to guarantee budgetary stability, Spenny said.
Other work beyond the construction of the 14 new cabins over several years will include improvements at the event center that hosts weddings, as well as in other buildings on the campus, many of which date back to the park's founding in the 1970s, park executive director Doug Dillow said.
He said that the organization hopes to have at least two of the cabins completed at the start of next year, and will continue to build more as fundraising continues.
They also hope to improve the road leading into the park, Spenny said.
The facility hosts a variety of events annually, including the Olde English Faire and Wildlife Scary Park. It's also the site of the Peoria County alternative school.
The Forest Park Foundation that has long helped support the park will provide up to $1 million in two-for-one matching grants after contributions from the community. They also provided $250,000 in donations for initial engineering and planning work so that construction can get under way, Dillow said.
Chris Kaergard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.