Groundbreaking Ceremony for Visitor Center at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area Held
Story by:Guest Contributor
First posted on 07-20-2007
(Rogers, AR)—Amendment 75, Arkansas’s conservation amendment, is funding the visitor center/educational center to be constructed at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area in northwest Arkansas near Rogers. The official groundbreaking for this 17,531-square-foot facility was held Friday, July 20, at 11 a.m. The ceremony was held at the visitor center’s construction site near the junction of Ark. 12 and War Eagle Road. Joining in the groundbreaking will be former U.S. Senators David Pryor of Little Rock and Kaneaster Hodges of Newport; former State Senator Morriss Henry of Fayetteville; Tim Snell of Fayetteville, associate state director for The Nature Conservancy of Arkansas; Wade Williams of Eureka Springs, a member of the State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission; John Sampier of Rogers representing the Friends of Hobbs; Richard W. Davies, executive director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism; State Parks Director Greg Butts; Park Superintendent Mark Clippinger; and other area and state officials and invited guests.
The $3,936,000 facility is slated to open in the fall of 2008. The architect is PB2 Architecture and Engineering of Rogers. The contractor is Milestone Construction Company, LLC of Springdale. The exhibits are being designed and built by Chase Studios of Cedar Creek, Missouri.
The visitor center will serve a key role in welcoming park visitors and students to this 12,045-acre state park-conservation area, the largest of Arkansas’s 52 state parks. Featuring state-of-the-art exhibits and classroom/meeting space, the building will also house a retail sales area and the park’s administrative offices.
According to State Parks Director Greg Butts, information and education will be the primary focus of the facility. “The center will introduce park visitors and students to this natural resource and serve as the hub as they are motivated to go outside to experience it, enjoy it, and learn from it as their lives become connected to it,” he said.
Butts noted that within an hour’s drive are over 58,000 students in Benton, Carroll, Madison and Washington Counties who can benefit from the center. “This visitor and education center will be about enhancing the quality of life in this area and inspiring all who visit it. And, it will be about motivating the young people who spend time here to help prepare the next generation to be environmentally conscious stewards of the land,” he said.
According to Butts, over half of Arkansas’s population now resides in urban settings. “This will be a special place for visitors and students to reconnect with Arkansas—its land and people.” Butts continued, “Here in this interactive visitor center they will explore state-of-the-art exhibits by internationally known Chase Studios, the wildlife viewing area and trail around the center. They’ll study in the hands-on laboratory classrooms. They can explore a whole series of park trails including a barrier-free walking trail and a short hiking trail that will be developed as part of the interpretive programs offered here at the center. And, they can take boat tours and go kayaking.” He said, “They will view artifacts, photographs, videos and sculpture combined to relay information about the park. And, a cave diorama will give them a view of the fascinating world hidden beneath the surface.”
The visitor center has been designed to be environmentally friendly. Local materials from the region will be used as much as practical to save fuel usage. A geothermal energy heating and cooling system will be featured to reduce energy consumption. Forty geothermal wells will be located in the parking lot to minimize runoff and disturbance to this wooded site. Reflective colors on the building and the paving will reduce heat gain. Fly ash, a recycled material, will be included in the concrete slab for strength and to reduce cost. And, a one-way road into and out of the center will result in less impact on the surrounding forest.
Studies determined the best location for the structures to minimize their impact on the delicate geological foundation here of karst topography, a limestone environment of small caves and springs. The design of the center is reminiscent of historic Ozark structures with an outdoor porch at each entry.
According to Park Superintendent Mark Clippinger, “With the new visitor center we will have an incredible opportunity to continue to fulfill our park mission to provide educational and recreational needs in harmony with resource stewardship.” He said, “If one word could sum up the excitement that has built for over 27 years leading to the groundbreaking of the new Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area visitor center, that word would be ‘passion.’” He continued, “That passion—to save and set aside a special place in northwest Arkansas—began in the late 1970s with a vision by the citizens of the region and was followed through by a very dedicated group of public officials, area bankers and other community leaders. That vision continues today with the new visitor center that will help fulfill the park’s mission.”
The majority of the Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area’s 12,045 acres is comprised of the 11,644-acre Roscoe C. Hobbs estate that was acquired by the state of Arkansas in the late 1970s. Hobbs had used the property primarily in his forest product business. Under Hobbs’ management, the area was maintained in timber and selectively harvested for timber products including railroad ties.
The park stretches across a part of Benton County southeast of Beaver Lake and extends into Madison and Carroll Counties. The park offers four hiking trails including a ¼-mile, barrier-free historical trail and a 16-mile multi-use trail; an all-weather public firing range; regulated seasonal hunting; undeveloped access to 28,370-acre Beaver Lake.
Future development will include cabins, pavilions and picnic areas. The state park-conservation area is managed jointly by Arkansas State Parks, the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area is located 10 miles east of Rogers on Ark. 12.