SACRAMENTO, Calif. --
Before McClellan Air Force Base closed in 2001, the maintenance directorate on the base utilized a massive 30-foot radar dome for research and development of the AN/FPS 117, a three-dimensional (azimuth-range-height) phased array antenna radar. Today the Wildlife Care Association is reusing the facility, which bears resemblance to a small-scale version of Disney’s Epcot Center.
When visitors to the center enter the doors under the dome they will find animals of all kinds on the mend.
The facility houses a veterinarian clinic on the inside and a bird sanctuary outside. A White Crown Sparrow, several possums, a hummingbird, and a duck are currently taking up residence and will soon be released back to their natural habitat.
“This is another great example of creative reuse where a former Air Force building ends up being used successfully by a public entity,” said McClellan Base Environment Coordinator Steve Mayer. “Being located within the West Nature Area, the facility is ideally located for the WCA’s purposes. I am constantly amazed by some of the unique reuse projects being put into place in these buildings.”
Once the military departed, the building sat vacant until the WCA found the perfect place for their animal rehab center. With the assistance of the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, the building was inspected, cleaned out and deemed environmentally suitable for use as a wildlife center.
In 2012, lease agreements were signed between the Air Force and WCA. This summer, AFCEC plans to transfer the property through the Local Reuse Authority (Sacramento County) to McClellan Business Park, as part of the West Nature Area, which is fitting for the wildlife center with at least 140 different species serviced (or “served”) since opening, along with the on-hand sparrows, possums, and hummingbirds, are beavers, minks, squirrels, and tortoises.
“We’ve even had eagles, hawks, and owls that have been unfortunately affected by people using rodenticides,” said WCA public relations officer Rick Reed.
The WCA is an independent and largely volunteer-operated non-profit organization that has been rehabilitating animals for more than 40 years, the last six at the former base.
To get the center up and running, the Air Force allotted a 99-year lease to the Wildlife Association, which was previously housed in a residential area.
Today, McClellan Park is home to 230 companies with more than 15,000 jobs. It also has the entitlements to construct an additional 6,000,000 square feet of new buildings, creating the potential to employ a workforce of 35,000 at full capacity. Because of the symbiotic relationship between all stakeholders, redevelopment continues to bring jobs and improvements to the surrounding community.
WCA President, Theresa Bielawski, couldn’t be happier with the opportunity McClellan provided. She has always had a love for animals and was introduced to the idea after bringing injured birds to the association.
“I’ve been an animal lover my whole life,” said Bielawski. “I found a couple of injured birds and took them to Wildlife Care. After that I became a volunteer. I took a rehab class for baby squirrels and started doing home rehab. It just kind of took off from there.”
Later, Bielawski became a board member for WCA and over time became increasingly involved.
The peak season for WCA is from spring to fall when many species are born. Many of them are displaced by development projects, injured by motorists or yard work. Once an animal is rehabilitated, a volunteer releases it back into its natural habitat.
“Some animals have a hard time leaving their temporarily homes at the WCA,” said Reed. “We released some pigeons and they came back to us. We really like to emphasize wildlife is wild, we have to love them, heal them and let them go.”
Animals come to WCA from animal control, the California Department of Fish and Game and good Samaritans from the surrounding communities.
“Most local organizations don’t have the resources to raise thousands of birds or the funds to heal injured or ill wild animals,” said Reed. “Without the services provided by WCA, there are few options for a wild animal beyond euthanasia.”
This solution does not always sit well in the public consciousness, which why wildlife rehabilitators at WCA provide a much needed and appreciated community service.
Donations are always welcome, and the list includes everything from dry cat or dog food to hand soap and office supplies. A lawnmower, trash bags, play pens and volunteers to help with animal care, site maintenance and information technology are also welcomed.
For more information on the redevelopment of former McClellan AFB and other BRAC bases AFCEC currently manages through long-term property management, environmental remediation, and property disposal visit: http://www.afcec.af.mil/Home/BRAC/McClellan-AFB/.
Or call (916) 643-1250, ext. 257.