Bear habitat’s new Community Education Pavilion nears end of construction

Workers begin moving out of the bear habitat following its recent construction. Camryn Duffy | Photographer

By Camille Cox | Staff Writer

Beloved Baylor bears Joy and Lady, who turned 21 and 20 on Feb. 5, will continue to bring many visitors annually, with an expanded habitat to host the new Community Education Pavilion.

With construction underway, the bear habitat will expand to host a multi-use space to educate visitors about the bears.

“The construction is the addition of the Community Education Pavilion — a multi-use space for community engagement and education,” Dakota Farquhar-Caddell, Robert L. Reid director of the Baylor Chamber of Commerce, said via email. “It will serve as an outdoor classroom, complete with AV capabilities and flexible seating.”

Farquhar-Caddell said the construction is on its way to completion, with AV and seating to be installed by the end of the month. AV capabilities will give the pavilion audio and visual components to enrich the habitat’s experience.

While the first bear arrived on campus in 1917, the bear habitat was constructed in 2005, with the vision to make the habitat a “bear’s dream world.” Farquhar-Caddell said the habitat welcomes thousands of visitors a year, including alumni, visitors from other schools and Baylor fans flocking to see the iconic mascots. The Community Education Pavilion will provide more learning space for these visitors.

“As we continue to welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, many of which are school-aged children or class field trips, this space allows us to host larger groups and accommodate additional outreach and education requests,” Farquhar-Caddell said.

The Community Education Pavilion was funded by donors and a grant from the Cooper Foundation.

“This will help the bear habitat and Joy and Lady as they serve as black bear ‘species ambassadors’ for Waco, Texas and the world,” Brandon McClain, bear habitat project manager, said.

Joy and Lady are cared for by the Baylor Chamber of Commerce’s Bear Program, which is composed of students who dedicate time and effort to the health of the bears. The students provide daily care for the beloved bears, complete with feeding twice a day, cleaning the habitat, training and exercising and leading community engagement and education. The pavilion will allow the bear caretakers to expand their abilities to educate the public about the bears.

“The pavilion will serve as a way for our team to better engage with the Baylor community and educate folks on black bears and wildlife conservation,” Las Vegas junior and student lead caretaker Sam Lebow said. “​​This project is one step in many as we fulfill our mission of a tradition of stewardship, education and conservation.”