Over the past year, displays have grown and have been improved.
By NORMAN LEIGH
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
A HOUSE ONCE OCCUPIED BY PEOPLE HAS been turned over to the natural world that surrounds it.
As the Beaver Creek State Park Nature Center enters its second season, visitors will find even more there to explore, says Jim Tillman, park director.
Creating a nature center was a primary goal Tillman set for himself when assigned to the park in 2000.
The first problem to overcome was finding a place to house the facility.
Tillman, who commutes to work, solved the puzzle by converting the former park director's house into a nature center.
The project was given a major boost when Jim Kerr, a teacher who works for the Columbiana County Educational Service Center, donated his extensive collection of mounted animals.
Tillman credits Kerr with being a continual force of aid to the center through fund-raising and undertaking exhibit improvements.
The center has been created with the aid of about $4,500 in state funds and a like amount in donations.
Visitors to the center can examine dozens of mounted insects and animals, including ducks, whitetail deer, a black bear and a beaver.
Over the past year, the displays have been improved. Many of the animal mountings are now in a naturelike arrangement in what was once the house's attached garage.
All the animals in the room and throughout the center are or were indigenous to the surrounding hills, valleys and streams that make up the park.
For a hands-on experience, the center features a wall on which are hung the pelts of various animals, including a bear, moose, elk, mink, fox and coyote.
Visitors are invited to run their hands over the hides and note the different colors and textures.
A computer room has been added in which visitors can use CDs to explore nature topics, such as wild bird species. The room also has a small nature library and a massive topographical map of the entire area.
In the former living room, visitors can sit in front of a large window and watch wild birds visit the feeders outside.
Tillman said the park hopes to install video cameras this summer near the feeders that would transmit close-up images of birds to televisions mounted inside the house.
A former bedroom is fitted with display cases that house a live black-rat snake and a garter snake.
To staff the center, the park has organized about 20 volunteer guides. Some of them are college students majoring in the natural sciences, others are area science teachers.
Tillman said about 1,300 people visited the center last year. Nearly 250 showed up at a recent open house.
"From young to old, it's been a big hit," said Karen LaBuda, the park's coordinator of volunteers.
Tillman said he expects visitor numbers to grow this year as more people learn about the facility, located on Echo Dell Road in the park, about a mile from the park office.
There's no cost to visit the center, which is open from noon to 5 p.m. on weekends from now until Labor Day.
Clubs, community organizations and school groups may make arrangements for special weekday visits to the center by contacting the park office at (330) 385-3091.