OUS seeking funding for nature center

Published 9:14 am Monday, March 11, 2013

Amphitheater, walking trail planned


HECLA — A mile-long nature trail winding through green forest, laboratories to conduct scientific experiments and an astronomy observatory to give Lawrence County residents a closer look at the stars are just a few of the things planned by Ohio University Southern for its future outdoor education center.

The center is to be built on a 46.3-acre lot of land in Hecla that was donated to the university by Wanda Howard. Bob Culp, OUS professor, said the center will be unique and a wonderful educational tool for university and area grade school students, teachers and the entire community.

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“We have been doing this at the Wayne National Forest since 1999,” Culp said. “But with this we get to expand and work with less restriction. We want to focus on (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education and alternative energy programs. We will also have recreational activities, such as a partially handicap-accessible walking trail and a rock climbing wall.”

The center will also include an amphitheater that will seat about 200, Culp said. He added the venue could be used for a large number of things, from science and nature demonstrations to community events seeking a certain atmosphere.

Matt Ward, OUS director of development, said not only will the center be an educational tool for the community, it will also serve as a beacon for industry and innovation. He said the center is a key component of the university’s The Promise Lives campaign, a multi-year fundraising effort to provide the funding necessary to implement university programs such as this one.

“When businesses and industry look to relocate, the type of programs we will have out there is what attracts them to a location,” Ward said. “They are looking for an educated workforce, a community that is innovated. It helps not only with educational development but also with economic development.”

On top of future funds from campaign, OUS is in the middle of an aggressive grant proposal phase. Culp said he has looked into various funding opportunities, including Ohio Environmental Education Fund grants.

The center will be available for public use, but exact hours of operations are still unknown at this phase of the planning.

Anyone interested in learning more about the outdoor education center or The Promise Lives Campaign can contact Matt Ward at (740) 547-3792.