"We're excited about it," education and outreach biologist Sara Seagraves said Monday, Jan. 9. "Seeing it now, I can envision what it will look like."
The 7,500-square-foot Aquatic Conservation and Education Center will have a main exhibition hall with 6-foot tall tanks for alligators, fish, turtles and mussels, plus one tank with a waterfall for salamanders and similar creatures.
The indoor and outdoor exhibits are anticipated to be a big hit with area educators and likely will draw classes from a large area. Besides the live displays, a video screen in the hall will show films of marine wildlife. Photos and other exhibits will line the walls.
An adjoining wing will have a large classroom, also with a video screen built into one wall. Ample windows will overlook an outdoor amphitheater, built with conservation in mind. The soil berm will hold back floodwaters, and will be lined with rock stairs for seating.
The second wing will house administrative offices, storage and bathrooms. An office is in the works for a center administrator, a position not yet filled.
Visitors to the center will be greeted by volunteers in the spacious gift shop, filled with as many locally-made items as possible, Seagraves said.
So far, one local craftsman, Black River Beads and Pottery, has agreed to make items specifically for the hatchery gift shop. More local craftsman will be needed, Seagraves said.
Funded mainly with federal stimulus money, the $3.8 million project does not include an annual budget increase to hire hatchery staff, which prompted Mammoth Spring Mayor Jean Pace and others to generate interest in forming a friends group.
Friends groups are able to apply for grants and have fundraisers, while U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service workers are not.
A board has been named and bylaws have been drafted. The group is still awaiting final designation and confirmation of a logo. The group will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 11, at Simmons Bank in Mammoth Spring. The public is invited.
The main contractor for the building project is Riley Construction of West Virginia, with Alexander Construction of St. James as the main subcontractor, and a host of local subcontractors are performing a variety of tasks, such as the brickwork.
The facility layout and displays were designed by aquatic exhibit designer Greg Morrow.
All inside framing has been completed, and will be finished with wallboard once the windows and exterior metal siding arrives this week.
The hatchery is planning an open house event about a month after the center opens in April.