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Ozark Natural Science Center establishing adjunct urban education quarters on Lake Fayetteville

Ozark Natural Science Center's Executive Director, Rose Brown, poses in front of newly leased classroom complex on Lake Fayetteville.
J.Froelich
/
KUAF
Ozark Natural Science Center's Executive Director, Rose Brown, poses in front of newly leased classroom complex on Lake Fayetteville.

For nearly 50 fifty years, Fayetteville and Springdale public school students have taken field trips to a 200-acre forest preserve situated on the remote northeast shore of Lake Fayetteville. Operated by the city, the Springdale-Fayetteville Center for Study of Aquatic Resources provides classroom courses and nature hikes.

The center, however, has stood vacant for several years after school districts stopped bussing kids to the site. In February, Fayetteville City Council agreed to lease the facility to the nonprofit Ozark Natural Science Center, headquartered in rural Madison County.

Executive director Rose Brown takes a seat on a spacious wooden deck overlooking the lake behind the classroom complex. She said that she and her board first approached the city to lease the place a year ago.

"We at Ozark Natural Science Center realized that we needed to be doing more off-site programming," she said. "It was exactly at the same time that Fayetteville parks were looking for someone to occupy this building and do environmental education in particular. We at Ozark Natural Science Center have been around for thirty years, but not everybody can make it all the way out to our main campus an hour away, so we're so excited to have a more accessible spot where we'll be able to reach Fayetteville, Springdale and Siloam Springs residents who can come here and enjoy our nature programming."

A back deck attached to the newly leased urban Ozark Natural Science Center complex on Lake Fayetteville will serve as a gathering area.
J.Froelich
/
KUAF
A back deck attached to the newly leased urban Ozark Natural Science Center complex on Lake Fayetteville will serve as a gathering area.

For over three decades, the 80-acre Ozark Natural Science Center, situated adjacent to Ozark Natural Heritage-owned wilderness between Huntsville and Eureka Springs, has offered students hands-on, science-based learning that aligns with state curriculum standards, providing practical, real-world applications of scientific concepts.

In addition to hosting school programs during the academic year, Ozark Natural Science Center offers spring break and summer overnight and day camps, public workshops, classes, and hikes focused on wilderness skills, foraging, navigation, ecosystem exploration, mushroom hunting, plant identification, and birding. The adjunct location on Lake Fayetteville will replicate some of that programming.

"We have four weeks of day camps so people can find those on our website and then starting in the fall we will have open house public programs about all kinds of science and nature subjects," Brown said. "We will have a monthly guided hike that is by donation and that will be open to the public to come and follow one of our teacher naturalists along one of these nature trails and learn about whatever we happen to discover along the way."

Registration is required, and a calendar of events is posted on the center's website. The 458-acre Lake Fayetteville city park has long been a popular hiking, fishing and floating destination. The new Ozark Natural Science Center satellite facility is expected to draw even more visitors.

"We are so fortunate to have this location because we're sitting here on the deck looking at the lake," Brown said. "We have lake access straight out to the dock from here along a wonderful trail and then these trails wind along next to the lake, part of the paved city trail system."

The Ozark Natural Science Center's lease on the facility began April 1, enabling staff to work on restoring the site.

"[This week] we begin painting and cleaning and getting ready, moving our things in, getting ready for the open house in May. So we're recruiting lots of volunteers to come out here and help us clean up trash, pull invasive plant species, create a native plant garden, paint the building and get our activities and our supplies ready. Our great grand opening will be on Saturday May 18th from 4:00 to 8:00 PM — our 'Call of the Wild' event which is our spring fundraiser. We'll have food and beverages and activities and nature hikes and live music so we hope everyone will join us."

Ozark Natural Science Center is supported by private donations, grants and fundraising events, said Brown, unlocking the science facility's front door.

One of two spacious classrooms comprise the new urban Ozark Natural Science Center on Lake Fayetteville.
J.Froelich
/
KUAF
One of two spacious classrooms comprise the new urban Ozark Natural Science Center on Lake Fayetteville.

"So here's our interior," gesturing to two large classrooms, bathrooms, and a water fountain. "This classroom will be an area for students to work on individual projects in small groups as they learn how to identify specimens. We'll have a small administrative area and a little infirmary in case anybody's feeling ill, and a small store here."

The second classroom contains empty aquariums, which may be utilized, she said.

"You can see there's lots of storage where we can keep our supplies. We have twelve different [courses] that we can teach students when they're here for our school program and for camps, so we'll have a lot of opportunities to pull out our materials, take them out into this classroom and take them out onto the trails. This will be our home base here."

Students, families and adults will also be able to enjoy the center's large lakeside dock, revealing a distant view of the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, and a popular public birdwatching blind.

The new Ozark Natural Science Center Lake Fayetteville facility has a working dock, where students can gather.
J.Froelich
/
KUAF
The new Ozark Natural Science Center Lake Fayetteville facility has a working dock, where students can gather.

Ozarks at Large transcripts are created on a rush deadline by reporters. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. The authoritative record of KUAF programming is the audio record.

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Jacqueline Froelich is an investigative reporter and news producer for <i>Ozarks at Large.</i>
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