By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
A new, multi-use facility is being constructed at the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge as a result of a $7 million funding opportunity by the Department of the Interior in 2018. This proposal granted the construction of an energy efficient replacement of the former Administrative and Visitors Center as well as to provide interactive and educational experiences for visitors. The new facility will also provide a bookstore and community meeting place, in addition to housing multiple offices including but not limited to the West Virginia Ecological Services and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.
Refuge Manager Ron Hollis explained that the co-location of service offices would result in savings of taxpayer funds as they will no longer be leasing multiple spaces. Hollis said, “ We anticipate that construction of the new facility will bring short-term construction jobs to the area and enhance the tourism economy of Tucker County.”
Hollis continued, “This building will be built towards LEED Silver qualifications, innovative technology where feasible, and energy efficient components. This building will have a multi-use room that can be used for showing the video about Canaan Valley NWR, support community meetings when scheduled, reception/exhibit hall, Friends Bookstore, and government offices for staff complete with a crew room, conference room, and copy room.” Educational kiosks, interpretive signage, and parking lot improvements are all a part of this collaborative project.
“As part of the Legacy project, funding will be for interpretive elements inside the multi-use facility and immediately around. We are working towards the redesign of Freeland Boardwalk and replacement of it with better longer lasting material,” Hollis added.
A public meeting was held recently to provide an update on the progress of this project. Hollis gave a brief presentation on the history of the facility which included detailed drawings of plans for this state of the art facility. Those in attendance had a chance to witness where the Refuge began, where it is now, and the direction it is heading in the near future. Guests witnessed a visualization of what the inside and outside of the facility will offer, as well as the redesign and replacement of the Freeland Boardwalk Trail.
“The main push of the multi-use facility is to get people outside. A contract was issued to Formations, Inc. to design, fabricate, and install the interpretive elements to tell the story of FWS and Canaan Valley NWR,” Hollis added. A soft opening of the new facility at the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, pending construction completion, is anticipated for February or March with a Grand Opening set for Spring 2020.