Ark. opens nature center in downtown Little Rock - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Ark. opens nature center in downtown Little Rock

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The last of four nature centers promised when the state Game and Fish Commission sought a one-eighth cent sales tax in 1996 has been opened in downtown Little Rock.

The Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center is on the south bank of the Arkansas River in the River Market district. So, just a short walk away from downtown Little Rock's bars and restaurants, visitors can now check out largemouth bass or brown trout swimming through a stream and listen to the sounds of elks bugling and turkeys gobbling.

The $8.5 million facility is named for a former member of the Game and Fish Commission who pushed for the state's conservation sales tax in 1996.

The 16,232-square-foot facility features exhibits that highlight the six natural regions of the state, including aquariums with native fish swimming about and stuffed deer and geese hanging from the ceiling.

Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines said opening the center in a downtown area will help introduce the state's wildlife to many youngsters who weren't raised in rural areas.      

The opening ceremony for the center also featured an appearance by the Peabody Hotel mallards. Arkansas Game and Fish Executive Director Scott Henderson later noted the irony of the ducks appearing at the center. He said, quote, "It was a little tough to convince them to come to a Game and Fish commission meeting during duck season."   

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