The new education center is housed on the foundation’s 57-acres of land and includes three interactive educational classrooms, 38,000 square feet of aviaries, a museum for the bald eagle and other birds of prey, and soon, a fully natural playscape.
American Eagle Foundation CEO Jessica Hall is already looking at the next project, but for the day, they were simply excited to celebrate the accomplishment of the new facility and were incredibly humbled by the support of the community.
“Today we’re opening our Education Center, which is the nations largest Education Center for the Bald eagle and birds of prey in the United States. Could not be more excited,” Hall said. “We’re just really, you know, incredibly humbled by the support our community has shown us today, and we couldn’t be more proud to be the face of the bald eagle here in Sevier County.”
In 2019, the American Eagle Foundation created a strategic plan to create a center in Sevier County where they could educate people on birds of prey, specifically the bald eagle.
“For me, as a Gen X-er, the bald eagle. The face of the endangered species, but that’s no longer the case. After a successful removal off of the endangered species list in 2007, everyone felt like the bald eagle was on the thriving levels, and it is, but there are still threats that face it today. So we feel like it’s our job to inspire the youth of tomorrow around the bald eagle and other birds of prey,” Hall said.
Hall explained that the pandemic in 2020 played a role during the planning of Project Eagle, as they approached the board with the plans to get permission to purchase the land in the middle of the pandemic. She said the board were the foundation’s “absolute visionaries” and supported their decision, bringing Project Eagle into existence.
At the center’s grand opening, Hall said it was incredible to see how many people attended the event.
“It’s incredible, but it’s also a tribute to our nation symbol, the bald eagle. So it’s incredible to see so many people gather in one place and want to support the work that we do, but most importantly, it just allows us to really, as a team, celebrate an incredible accomplishment.”
While the Project Eagle facility is a major accomplishment that has been years in the making, Hall says the American Eagle Foundation is already looking toward their next project: opening the national’s largest rehabilitation hospital for bald eagles and birds of prey on the foundation’s 57-acre campus.