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Ohio Department of Natural Resources Breaks Ground On Interactive Eco-Discovery Center

Tue November 07, 2023 - Midwest Edition #23
Ohio Department of Natural Resources


ODNR staff joins community leaders for a groundbreaking ceremony at Salt Fork State Park.
(ODNR photo)
ODNR staff joins community leaders for a groundbreaking ceremony at Salt Fork State Park. (ODNR photo)
ODNR staff joins community leaders for a groundbreaking ceremony at Salt Fork State Park.
(ODNR photo) Construction work will begin for the new Eco-Discovery Center at Salt Fork State Park.
(ODNR photo) Outside of the building, visitors will find a green roof and wall; permeable pathways; solar panels; a rainwater harvesting system; and EV charging stations.
(ODNR rendering)

Visitors of all ages will soon experience an immersive learning adventure alongside the mythical Bigfoot at the Salt Fork State Park Eco-Discovery Center. Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) broke ground on the 3,300 sq.-ft. project on Oct. 23.

"We are excited to begin this project that will welcome people to Salt Fork State Park in a unique way," ODNR Director Mary Mertz said. "I can't wait to see visitors of all ages explore the ecosystem of the world around them in this building that will focus on education and sustainability — two of our big priorities at our parks."

Inside the center, Bigfoot acts as a character guide throughout the building, highlighting fun facts and teaching visitors how, despite having big feet, Bigfoot's environmental footprint is small. The exhibits engage visitors in an interactive journey through Salt Fork's forest ecosystem to discover how everything in nature is connected and ends with visitors learning ways they can practice sustainability to protect these valuable connections and natural resources.

Outdoors, visitors will enjoy a patio with seating, a rain garden, meadow plantings, native trees and a trail leading through the habitats and to the lake.

The center, which will replace an aging nature center at the park, will sit approximately 2.5 mi. from the park entrance on Park Road 1 and will be a celebration of sustainability in Ohio's state park system.

ODNR's ConServe Ohio sustainability initiative inspired the need for a nature center that interprets the importance of sustainable practices now and in the future. The building will include sustainable elements indoors such as high efficiency HVAC equipment and filtration; LED lighting; low flow plumbing fixtures; a water bottle refilling station; and an entry floor system to reduce indoor pollution. Outside of the building, visitors will find a green roof and wall; permeable pathways; solar panels; a rainwater harvesting system; and EV charging stations.

Domokur Architects is the lead on design, while Swath Design LLC is creating the exhibits. The general contractor is United Construction Co. Inc., and Graham Construction is performing site preparation work. A generous donation from KeyBank via the Ohio State Parks Foundation will assist with the project.

ODNR was joined by Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) Director Cheryl Lyman, park staff and dignitaries for the groundbreaking. Expected to be completed in the summer of 2024, the new Eco-Discovery Center is expected to cost $4.97 million.




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