Logoly State Park superintendent Jim Gann is excited about the new Visitor Center's dedication and grand opening that will take place at 11:30 a.m. Thursday.
Gann said everyone at the park is in a rush to get all of the last minute details in order.
He said the park's Visitor Center has come a long way in the last 40 years, stating in an old building that was quickly outgrown.
"Many years ago, there was no need for a gift shop in a state park. The first item we sold as a souvenir many years ago was t-shirt."
Now the park’s gift shop is equipped with stuffed animals, candy, rocks and jewels, and many other novelty items.
That's just the beginning of the new center's attractions.
Gann said there are many interactive areas inside the center that encourage children and visitors to go outdoors and see what they can find. The exhibits are specific to South Arkansas and Logoly State Park.
Aquariums are built into a wall that will be rotating seasonal reptiles and native fish. Right now there baby alligators and turtles, since July is a hot month to find salamanders and lizards.
He said the interactive centers were designed around human senses. There are places to see things, places to hear things, places to touch things, and places to smell things.
There is a log built with a crawl hole for kids to explore. A section about bees is entitled, "Power of Pollinators." A seasonal section describes what is happening with trees and plants at any given time. There are also areas dedicated to the history behind the park and how it came to be.
The grand entrance has an indoor tree that has all types of wildlife hidden throughout it, from snakes to owls.
Gann said the park is replacing 20 to 30 of its energy use with natural or solar power. There are three large water reservoirs in front of the center to catch rain water and reuse it for flushing and plumbing. There are also solar panels and heating sources, he said.
Eventually the park will have an interactive touch screen area displaying the results of the park’s energy saving projects and weather. There will also be groups exhibiting projects through the property in the future.
It's a spectacular place to bring your friends and family, Gann said.
A theater will feature park activities and videos. There are also two multi-purpose rooms available for the public to rent for special occasions. And a large cemented area was built at the back of the center for stage or group activities.
“Our goal is to get everyone interested in what is in our forest, enough to get them out and exploring what they can find,” Gann said.
The grand opening will begin outdoors at the pavilion and move inside quickly for the ribbon cutting and viewing. It will be followed by a hamburger and hotdog cookout. All those who attend are invited for lunch.
Taylor-Kempkes Architects of Hot Springs is the contractor for the project which at 7,161 square feet, almost triples the size of the former Visitor Center.
A shuttle service will be available to and from the center, along with alternative parking areas if the main lot is full.
The park is located on Columbia County Road 47 off U.S. 79 near McNeil.