Providing a unique environment for educating the public about native species, animal habitats, and the interconnectivity of nature.

Willowbrook Wildlife Center
Forest Preserve District of DuPage County
Wheaton, IL

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County selected Wight & Company to provide site master planning and facility design services, for the renovation and expansion of Willowbrook Wildlife Center (WWC). Internationally renowned for its wildlife rehabilitation laboratory, habitat enclosures, and focus on local wildlife, the center had gradually outgrown its aged facilities. We created a master plan that transformed the 50-acre WWC into a cohesive, sustainable, and cost-efficient center that could better support its educational mission.

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Master Plan

The master plan called for improvements to the wildlife medical clinic, walking trials, visitor center, and woodland property. It included renovation of the main building into a highly efficient animal-care facility with improved workflow and amenities to support the center’s 8,000 animal admittances per year. A two-story addition to the south would house a new Visitor Center with expanded indoor animal exhibits and educational space on the first floor, and staff and administrative office functions on the second level. In addition, parking was expanded and traffic flow was improved. Creekside natural play areas and other trail enhancements were also added.

Public Education

In support of public engagement and education, we developed an Ecosystem Restoration Plan to transform the preserve into a showcase of typical natural areas that exist throughout DuPage County. We studied existing soil and hydrological conditions to create recommendations for how to restore these areas to a quality similar to their pre-settlement conditions. Plant and animal diversity were maximized and connections were created between the habitats, with a focus on interpretive displays and exhibits.