COLUMBUS, Ga. – An 86-seat auditorium and more room for reptile and amphibian displays both indoors and outdoors are key elements of a new facility designed to revitalize Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center as a community resource for experiencing the natural environment.
CSU will showcase the 8,000-plus square-foot addition to the center at 3535 South Lumpkin Road with a grand opening celebration from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, July 30.
The first 50 guests will be rewarded with T-shirts.
Opening-hour guided tours will be followed by live animal displays as the following species are placed in their new habitats in the main lobby:
- Tortoises, 11 a.m.
- Rat snakes, 11:30 a.m.
- Baby alligators, 1 p.m.
- Tree frogs, 1:30 p.m.
The free event also will include cake and door-prize giveaways, following a noon presentation by aquaria designer Jody Karlin, who will describe the new habitats he designed for the center.
Karlin’s work includes a variety of indoor aquariums and separate outdoor enclosures to display alligators and turtles.
Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center, which originally opened in 1995, represents a university-municipal partnership. Columbus Water Works built and has maintained the original facility while CSU has staffed the center and administered the educational programming for school groups and the general public. Columbus State classes in biology and environmental science frequently visit as well.
The same arrangement applies to the $2.3 million taxpayer SPLOST-funded addition. Water Works Senior Vice President Cliff Arnett said the expansion “moves the partnership with CSU into an exciting, new era with greater focus on environmental education, entertaining nature displays and interactive programs for all ages.”
Lisa Randolph, newly appointed by CSU to direct the center, said the new facility is ushering in more resources for Columbus State to deliver on “educating and inspiring visitors to conserve, protect and restore the natural environment.”
A new auditorium will accommodate larger gatherings such as guest speaker events and related programs that previously were restricted to gatherings of about 45 guests in the original building.
Additional new features outside the facility include trails and gardens accessible to mobility-limited individuals, compost bins and a greenhouse to help propagate plants for newly developed gardens, including a sensory garden, pollinator garden, organic vegetable garden and a bog garden.
The bog garden is home to several endangered species including carnivorous plants. Oxbow Meadows is now able to grow these rare and unusual plants as part of a new collaboration between the center and the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance, said Randolph, a former New York City science teacher who completed her graduate degree in environmental science at Columbus State in 2009.
The center will continue to feature its wetland trails for independent or guided walks to identify the native plant and animal species. The trails have yielded sightings of alligators, turtles, butterflies, snakes, fish, otters, beaver, deer, herons, songbirds and more.
The smaller, original facility – connected to the new structure by a covered walkway – also was renovated and will house staff offices and feature rotating natural history-related exhibits in its open space. The opening exhibit, to be up and viewable during the grand opening, will feature botanical artist Linda Fraser, whose paintings illustrate plants native to Georgia and the Southeast.
Columbus State plans to maximize the new facility by holding evening classes for CSU-Fort Benning students in the 36-person capacity classrooms and “adding Saturday hours so families can enjoy the center’s exhibits, as well as stroll the wetland trails, on weekends,” said Randolph.
New hours, after the grand opening, will be 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. Apart from special programs, admission is free.
The expansion also complements an anticipated symbiotic, visitor-drawing relationship between Oxbow Meadows and the recently opened National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center at Patriot Park located directly across South Lumpkin Road.
For more information about the grand opening, call 706-687-4090 or visit http://www.ColumbusState.edu/oxbow.
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