FARMINGTON — Pelicans, hummingbirds and even a turkey vulture were spotted Wednesday morning as nature guide Billy Fenimore took birdwatchers young and old down a nature trail at Farmington Bay's newest wildlife facility.
"We're so lucky to live in Utah, where you can come out here and see all the waterfowl birds, then go up in the mountains and see the raptors and the songbirds," Reece Stein said following a walk through the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Wildlife Education Center, which opened to the public Wednesday.
Spencer F. Eccles, chairman and CEO of the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, cut the ribbon in front of local politicians, businesspeople, philanthropists, state employees, as well as birdwatchers and their families.
"All wildlife enthusiasts can come here and get something out of it," said Nicaela Haig, Division of Wildlife Resources programs specialist over education and events at the center. "No matter which way you enjoy wildlife, there is something for you out here."
Haig also highlighted the accessibility of the center — 1.5 miles due west of Farmington High School — and that there is no entrance fee.
Eccles and other community members addressed the crowd prior to the ribbon-cutting, speaking on the importance of wildlife and conservation and thanking all those involved in making the new facility happen. DWR Director Mike Fowlks and Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, specifically credited former director Greg Sheehan with the idea for the new center and getting the process going.
Owls, a bald eagle, a small kestrel, two snakes and a salamander were also brought to the event by HawkWatch International, the Ogden Nature Center and the Hogle Zoo.
Reece and Marianne Stein wanted to see what the new facility looked like after regularly coming to the much smaller building previously on the site.
"We love the Great Salt Lake. What a fantastic resource we have out here for birds," Reece Stein said. "We come out here all the time to see the herons, especially in the spring when they've got babies."
The Steins said they have traveled to the world's best birdwatching destinations, but they also take advantage of the nearby resources. "We're so close to so much — you have to take advantage of it."
Budding birdwatchers Wyatt Fowlks, Bridger Fowlks and Shelby Warner — the DWR director's grandchildren — loved seeing the raptors brought to the grand opening. Bridger also loved seeing a few hummingbirds on a guided tour before the event.
Fenimore, the center's director, said he is eager to host field trips and other learning opportunities for children. The L.S. Skaggs Wetland Discovery Classroom opens directly onto the wetlands, which Fenimore said will be great for kids to get hands-on learning experiences.
He also hinted at a possible weekly or biweekly event called "Birding with Billy."
The Eccles Wildlife Education Center is open Tuesday-Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. It is closed Sundays, Mondays and holidays. There is also a one mile walking trail on the site, which will be open during daylight hours.
Haig added that the center will be taking reservations online for field trips later this fall at wildlife.utah.gov/education-center.
The center will host a volunteer job fair Saturday from 1-3 p.m. for those interested in helping.