SPRINGDALE – The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission unveiled its fifth and largest nature center to date in the heart of Northwest Arkansas in front of a small in-person gathering and for countless others attending via Facebook. The J.B. and Johnelle Hunt Family Ozark Highlands Nature Center stands as the crown jewel in the AGFC’s network of education facilities throughout the state, and will begin to welcome guests into its exhibit area beginning tomorrow morning by scheduled appointment.
The in-person ribbon-cutting ceremony was an invitation only event because of social-distancing requirements, but the entire event was live-streamed at the center’s Facebook page and a special web page.
Commission Chairman Andrew Parker spoke of his experience touring the facility with the Hunt family before the grand opening and the enthusiasm he saw in one of the younger members of the group.
“I encourage you to find a child when you walk through the doors of this building and watch the reaction he or she has when they look around the building,” Parker said. “There is not enough Halloween candy he could have collected that would match the level of enthusiasm and excitement he had to see the fish in the tanks, the animals scattered throughout the building and all of the things he could put his hands on.”
The center has been a much-needed component of the AGFC’s efforts to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters, anglers and outdoors enthusiasts in the northwest portion of the state for many years. Thanks to a generous matching donation of $5 million from the Hunt family and a 61-acre land donation from the City of Springdale in 2015, the roots of the new center took hold and began to grow.
Johnelle Hunt, who planted those seeds alongside former Arkansas Game and Fish