From birds with broken wings to frostbitten opossums, Willowbrook Wildlife Center treats and rehabilitates 10,000 wild animals annually. Though the center’s mission hasn’t changed in the nearly 70 since it opened, standards of care and demands on its services have.
On Tuesday, the board of the DuPage Forest Preserve District, which operates and funds the center, approved a $25.5 million master plan for Willowbrook that will transform the facility to meet 21st century needs.
The focal point of the plan will be a 27,000-square-foot wildlife rehabilitation clinic and visitor center, replacing the existing 40-year-old building, with an anticipated completion date of mid-2024. In a bid to achieve net-zero status — producing more energy from renewable resources than it consumes — the new center will be equipped with solar panels and a geothermal heating and cooling system.
“This ambitious project will allow Willowbrook to continue providing innovative medical care to native wildlife,” Forest Preserve District President Daniel Hebreard said in a statement. “We’re making it net-zero to show our commitment to sustainability and do our part to fight climate change.”
One-way windows and video monitors will allow visitors to gain a greater understanding of the work being done at the center, providing views of animals as they’re examined, treated, fed and rehabilitated, while at the same time shielding animals from humans’ presence.
Wildlife treatment and rehab will continue uninterrupted during construction, with the existing center remaining in use until the new clinic is up and running, officials said.