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New Aquatic Center gives special preview

Friday, July 27, 2012

Mammoth Spring's Aquatic Conservation and Education facility, which will soon open to the public, gave a tour on Friday, July 20 to the Friends of the Aquatic Center organization, to ignite excitement about the new addition to the Mammoth Spring State Park.

Sara Seagraves led members of the group on the tour throughout the new facility. The members of the "Friends" group are advocates for the hatchery. Seagraves said, "They go out and talk to the public and the government officials, and are in charge of running the gift shop. We've been actively trying for a year to get people to join that are interested in helping the hatchery."

The effort to educate the group members and get them excited about the new facility seemed to work. Seagraves said, "The tour went really well. The members seemed to be excited and enthusiastic about it being finished and open soon."

The main attraction is an exhibit hall, which is approximately 4,000 square feet, featuring ten aquariums of fish and other organisms. There's even a gift shop, located in the hall.

Seagraves said, "The exhibits are modeled to give you an idea of the habitat that fish live in. The outsides of the exhibits are carved and vary from the Ozark streams in our area, to Delta streams." Alongside the walls will be exhibit panels that will educate about endangered species, and what the hatchery does for endangered species. Seagraves said, "It will all be very educational, including a television up front that will play a video about the history of the hatchery, and fish and wildlife in general."

Seagraves said, "All of the tanks will use spring water to provide a natural environment, and the water will be recycled into the river." Components used in the building and operation of the facility fall into the "green" category. Baseboards around the bottom of the walls in the education/conference room and the administration offices are recycled or reclaimed wood from a building that was torn down to make room for the new facility. A cooling system, which uses and recycles spring water, will economically cool and heat the building. The lighting systems use LED and low impact florescent bulbs with motion sensor switches, which will turn lights off when not needed. The display tank water filtration systems, which are tucked away from public viewing, are biologically and cost friendly -- using natural bacteria and plant life to filter each tank.

The new facility will also be home to the park office, and a classroom will be available to public. Seagraves said they hope to hold teacher workshops at the center, and plan to have an archery program open to families, in effort to get more families involved more in the outdoors.

"The proceeds from the gift shop will go to the 'Friends' group. They will put funds to use for educational purposes for the hatchery," said Seagraves. The hatchery has fallen victim to budget cuts over the years, but has hopes that the group can raise money to put on festivals, workshops, and evening and weekend activities to be open to the public. Membership fees are charged for the group, but their primary income will be from the gift shop.

Seagraves said members are still needed for the Friends group. Individual, family, business, or lifetime memberships are available. To learn more about joining the group, contact Sara Seagraves or Glenda Pryor at the Mammoth Spring State Park.

Although contractor, engineering design and construction set backs have delayed the project from the originally scheduled opening date, the project is progressing and is now expected to open in late September or early October.

The center will also have another feather in it's cap -- it's set to become the most energy efficient building ever built by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The soon to open Aquatic Conservation and Education Center will feature energy-efficient mechanical and electrical systems, recycled and locally available building materials, educational exhibits and meeting space, storm water capture and re-use, and native plantings. It is expected to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification. Click to view a sketch of the building plan.

"But we're shooting for Gold certification," said Richard Shelton, manager of the hatchery for the past 26 years. "This building will be the bricks-and-mortar embodiment of our conservation mission. We are really proud of the design."

LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system. In addition to its sustainable design features, the center will include an environmental education classroom, retail sales space, additional office space, fish habitat displays and interpretive exhibits, and outdoor features such as a display pond and viewing areas.

"This new state-of-the-art center will be something that the community can be proud of, a place where people, and especially children, can connect with nature and learn about conservation and environmental issues," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. "In addition, it will provide a boost to the local economy, creating new jobs with stimulus funds."

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding enabled the project, which first received funds in 2005 for design and initial construction, to move forward and make the center a reality.

Mammoth Spring National Fish Hatchery has produced fish for fishing and population restoration for over a century. The hatchery was built in 1903, set where it is for the nearby railroad and the reliable, high-quality, gravity-flow water from one of the world's largest springs. With its unique rearing system, the hatchery has the capability to produce a wide variety of aquatic species.

Mammoth Spring National Fish Hatchery is one of three National Fish Hatcheries in Arkansas together responsible for a total economic impact of $160.7 million and 1,765 jobs through their recreational fish production and stocking efforts. It is not part of the proposed FY 2012 budgetary proposals involving funding of mitigation hatcheries.

Visit us online at http://www.fws.gov/mammothspring for more information about the hatchery.

Mammoth Spring leaders expect the Aquatic Center to attract new visitors to the area, and serve as a great educational tool for children.

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