Idaho Falls Zoo

The William J. Maeck Education Center is seen at the Idaho Falls Zoo on Friday, April 12, 2019.

Idaho Falls Parks and Recreation recently received two awards from the Idaho Recreation and Park Association, a nonprofit professional organization for parks and recreation departments throughout the state.

Presented at the Idaho Recreation and Park Association’s annual conference last week, the awards recognized the Idaho Falls Parks and Recreation department’s Up, Up and Away program and its William J. Maeck Education Center.

The Up, Up and Away program, which won the Outstanding Innovative Program Award, is a two-day camp that teaches youth about aeronautics and aviation.

The program is a collaboration between the Desert Eagles Model Airplane Club, Utah Helicopter School and the Civil Air Patrol.

“This is a great collaboration that helps teach kids about the wonders and science behind aviation and flight,” said Greg Weitzel, Idaho Falls Parks and Recreation director, in a news release. “We’re really honored to be recognized for our innovation in partnering with the community to help provide fun, hands-on STEM-based learning for youth in Idaho Falls.”

Additionally, the William J. Maeck Education Center at the Idaho Falls Zoo received the Outstanding Facility Award, which recognizes parks and recreation facility design or development in new or rehabilitation projects.

The education center opened in February.

Within the 4,400-square-foot building, Idaho Falls Zoo officials teach children and zoo patrons about conservation and the environment.

It includes three classrooms, storage, a kitchen and office spaces.

The facility’s design includes dark stone to represent eastern Idaho’s volcanic basalt rock and timber samples to represent the surrounding mountains and historic log cabins throughout Tautphaus Park.

The project cost about $1 million. It was funded largely by donations, including $500,000 from the William J. Maeck Foundation, $250,000 from the Tautphaus Park Zoological Center and $100,000 endowment from the Idaho Falls Community Foundation.

“We just can’t thank the Maeck Foundation and the Tautphaus Park Zoological Society enough for having the vision to partner with us to provide such an amazing educational facility for the residents of Idaho Falls,” Weitzel said in the release.

Reporter Ryan Suppe can be reached at 208-542-6762. Follow him on Twitter: @salsuppe.

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