By Patrick T. Sullivan
Kim Allgeier hopes Parklands of Floyds Fork visitors will see the new welcome center off Shelbyville Road as a starting point.
Allgeier, the park’s education and interpretation manager, said the new center will help visitors learn about Floyds Fork and the wildlife in and around it.
But she added that the best way to learn about the waterway is actually exploring it.
“The center is a good place to start and finish your experience here,” she said.
The 3,500-square-foot welcome center — named the PNC Achievement Center — opened last week in Beckley Creek Park. Staffed by park rangers and volunteers, the center has a large map of Floyds Fork that details its history. It also has as a wall lined with facts about the creek’s wildlife. Two classrooms will soon be available for schools that hold field trips at the park.
Beside the welcome center is the new 11,000-square-foot Gheens Foundation Lodge, which also opened last week. It will be available for weddings, corporate outings and other private functions.
Parklands officials have deemed the welcome center an “outdoor classroom” that will offer family workshops, interpretive hikes, scout programming, spring break and summer science camps, as well as school programs and birthday parties. The programs will be offered throughout the spring.
The building’s two classrooms will have microscopes, fossils and other wildlife elements that will give students a hands-on experience, Allgeier said.
“In class, students can talk about things like erosion, but here, we can show you erosion,” said Allgeier, who started working at the Parklands in September.
The center is near a canoe put-in point on the creek. Allgeier said the park will soon offer programs to schools that will allow students to paddle up to two miles on it before coming back to the center and discussing what they saw.
The the park will hold a spring break camp in early April and plans to have eight camps this summer, said Ellen Doolittle, spokeswoman for 21st Century Parks, which is overseeing the construction and operation of The Parklands.
Demand for the new lodge has been strong, Allgeier said, noting that it has already been booked for several dates throughout the fall.
The welcome center cost $1.5 million to build, and the lodge cost $2.5 million. Both buildings were paid for with donations. PNC donated $1 million, and the Gheens Foundation donated “a significant amount,” Doolittle said.
The new buildings are adjacent to Creekside Sprayground and Playground, which has been especially popular in warmer months since opening in 2011.
Allgeier said she hopes the play area’s popularity will draw attention to the center and ultimately the creek and other wooded areas.
“The proximity to the playground will certainly help,” Allgeier said. “No matter what your age, there will be something you can enjoy.”
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