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The Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center, whose mission is introducing the public to the importance of conservation education in Arkansas, is the fourth nature center established by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). The center opened on December 17, 2008, and is funded by the Amendment 75 Conservation Sales Tax, allowing the center to provide free admission. Covering almost three and a half acres of land within the Julius Breckling Riverfront Park in the River Market District in Little Rock (Pulaski County), it is located along the Arkansas River Trail between the First Security Amphitheater and the Interstate 30 Arkansas River bridge.
Permanent exhibits include large indoor aquariums filled with native fish from several of Arkansas’s natural divisions. In addition, the center features exhibits of American alligators and other seldom-seen reptiles found in the state. A timeline telling the history of fish and wildlife conservation in Arkansas shows the progress made in conserving these natural resources. A theater presentation provides information on many areas of research and education with which the AGFC is involved. Re-creations of a bait shop and trapper’s cabin are adjacent to the main exhibit hall. An extensive collection of fishing lures and tackle showcases many early Arkansas lure and tackle manufacturers.
The center features sculptures, photography, and other pieces of art inside and outside the building. A geocache is also located on the grounds. More than 100 bird species have been seen along the riverfront nearby. A wildlife area provides excellent viewing from a glass wall within the building. The William E. “Bill” Clark Presidential Park Wetlands, just east of the center, offer more fish and wildlife viewing opportunities. The center is surrounded by native plant beds featuring many plants that are beneficial to wildlife.
Education staff provides specialized school field trips, teacher workshops, and public programs throughout the year. A classroom and administrative offices are located across a breezeway from the exhibit hall. Visitors may also purchase nature-themed items in the gift shop. Arkansas authors are featured, with subjects ranging from hiking trails to fishing. The center is one level, providing easy access for strollers or those with limited mobility. A shaded breezeway with picnic tables and benches offers a place for viewing the river.
For additional information:Hendricks, Bryan. “AGFC Opens 4th Nature Center.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, December 17, 2008, p. 8C.
Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center. http://www.centralarkansasnaturecenter.com/ (accessed August 26, 2014).
Neil Curry Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
Last Updated 9/5/2014
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