COLLEGE CORNER — On Wednesday, June 15, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Mary Mertz helped unveil a brand-new nature center at Hueston Woods State Park.
“Director Mertz has been such an amazing supporter of Ohio State Parks, we have been able to do some fantastic improvements to our park facilities and infrastructures. But we’ve also been able to do some really awesome projects like this brand new nature center,” Melissa Clark, District Park and Watercraft Manager, said while welcoming those in attendance.
“A couple years ago, we started on an effort to really up our game with educating folks and introducing them to nature, the great outdoors,” Mertz said. “We have 30 nature centers across the state. Every single one of them is getting either a small update or a big renovation, or in this particular case, we decided to start from scratch. There was an old nature center but we weren’t able to update it.”
“So this is our first brand new, from the ground up, nature center and we are all thrilled to have it right here in Hueston Woods,” she continued.
According to Mertz, the Land and Water Conservation Fund providing the funding to construct the new center. “So it’s the General Assembly and the federal money, and you know, Gov. DeWine’s leadership and dedication in this,” she said.
Mertz went on to thank Congressman Warren Davidson and his staff, as well as Sen. Rob Portman and State Rep. Rodney Creech.
“We have the best naturalists — we’re incredibly proud of them,” Mertz said. “And they deserve to have the very best facilities to share with all of you. We want to spark imaginations, curiosity — help people when they get out in nature to understand what they’re seeing, and have fun with it. So so we’re really excited.”
“Thinking about how we wanted to build this, we really wanted to highlight some of the aspects of the park that make us special,” Hueston Woods Park Naturalist Shawn Conner said. “So some of the things we looked at specifically were the ‘Big Woods,” our state nature preserve, as the director mentioned and how rich we are with limestone and fossils here in the park. And some of our partnerships. Specifically in here, you know, wildlife — we have a pretty wildlife heavy Nature Center. And we really wanted to focus on that. So we tried to make this nature center as user-friendly as possible, where we can get a good close look at all of our animals, both inside the Nature Center, and our raptors behind.”
Following the ribbon cutting, families could join the director and ODNR staff on a journey through the nature center’s “Big Woods” themed exhibits, including a “wall of live animals,” a living beehive, and the raptor house.
Hueston Woods Park Manager Kathryn Conner closed by thanking everyone involved in the making the project a reality. “And then ultimately, all of you guys who came out here today, so I want to thank everybody who is here and if I didn’t say you specifically by name, you know who you are, and you know that I’m very, very thankful for you,” she said.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr.