District Approves Project That Transforms Willowbrook Wildlife Center

News Release


District Approves Project That Transforms Willowbrook Wildlife Center

New center will advance wildlife care, community engagement, and sustainability

(April 19, 2022) — The DuPage Forest Preserve District board on Tuesday approved an ambitious $25.5 million master plan project for Willowbrook Wildlife Center that will transform the center and make it the District’s first net-zero designed building.

The board approved a guaranteed-maximum-price contract with Wight & Company to design and build the facility.


“This ambitious project will allow Willowbrook to continue providing innovative medical care to native wildlife,” said Forest Preserve District President Daniel Hebreard. “We’re making it net-zero to show our commitment to sustainability and do our part to fight climate change.”
The centerpiece of the project is a 27,000-square-foot wildlife rehabilitation clinic and visitor center that will allow visitors to view animals through one-way windows and video monitors as they are examined, treated, in surgery, being fed, and rehabilitated.

Plans also include new animal rehabilitation areas, an outdoor classroom, an interpretive trail with wildlife observation areas, and outdoor activity spaces that demonstrate how to attract and live in harmony with native wildlife.

The new facility will also help Willowbrook’s existing nonreleasable resident animals, most of which are geriatric, by housing them in enclosures best suited to their needs. Video monitors will showcase select animals as well as animals in the rehabilitation enclosures.

The building will be one of the first net-zero designed facilities in DuPage County, meaning it will produce more energy from renewable resources than it will consume. Key elements making it net-zero include solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity and a geothermal heating and cooling system. The building will also integrate energy-efficient features throughout.

The new clinic and visitor center are expected to open in mid-2024, and the entire project is expected to be done by 2025. Wildlife rehabilitation will continue uninterrupted throughout the project.

The District will use $22 million in general obligation bonds to help fund the project and is pursuing an additional $3.5 million in grants.

Thanks to generous donors and the Friends of the Forest Preserve District, $3.7 million in private donations is already available to support the project. The nonprofit Friends group offers additional opportunities for the public to contribute through the Friends' website.

“This is a great opportunity for those who share our excitement about Willowbrook’s future to support this innovative project,” said Diane Addante, president of the Friends board. “We invite you to contact Friends of the Forest Preserve District to learn more.”

Willowbrook Wildlife Center is a nationally recognized wildlife rehabilitation facility that provides care and medical treatment to approximately 10,000 sick, injured, and orphaned native wildlife a year.

Operated by the Forest Preserve District since 1956, Willowbrook also supports the District’s Blanding’s turtle captive-rearing program and serves as an environmental and wildlife education resource for the public.

All of Willowbrook’s operating expenses are funded by the Forest Preserve District and private donations. The center does not receive state or federal funds to operate.

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County has been connecting people to nature for more than 100 years. More than 6.2 million people visit its 60 forest preserves, 166 miles of trails, six education centers and scores of programs each year. For information, call 630-933-7200 or visit dupageforest.org, where you can also link to the District’s e-newsletter, blogFacebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok pages.

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