The Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center in Joplin will reopen Friday, Sept. 6, with an open house from 10 a.m. to noon that day.
Formerly the Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center, it is at 201 W. Riviera Drive in Joplin's Wildcat Park.
“Shoal Creek is a special place for people of all ages to connect with nature and learn how to take care of it, now and into the future,” MDC Director Sara Parker Pauley said in a statement announcing the opening. “The MDC team has worked hard getting this facility ready for re-opening and we hope the community will be pleased with all the indoor and outdoor enhancements of this one-of-a-kind conservation destination.”
The nature center had been a top visitor attraction, but it closed last summer after one of the original partners in the operation, the National Audubon Society, gave notice that it would no longer participate in the programs there or operate the center, which opened in 2007. Other partners at the center include the city and the Missouri Department of Conservation.
The state took ownership of the building last summer, changing its name and beginning repairs and modifications.
MDC officials originally said they hoped the building would be closed "for only a couple weeks to make a few minor repairs," but found structural, electrical and other problems, including a leaking roof and leaking aquarium.
The city leases 33 acres of surrounding park land to MDC and also has a separate agreement with Wildcat Glades Friends Group, a nonprofit working alongside MDC on conservation and education efforts.
According to MDC, visitors will notice "naturescaped" grounds at the front of the building featuring native plantings.
Inside, MDC will maintain an office and feature several new temporary displays. Those will be replaced at a future date by permanent exhibits highlighting the uniqueness and significance of the area’s chert glades, Shoal Creek, and other natural features of the area.
A newly formed partnership between MDC and the Wildcat Glades Friends Group means the latter will have a redesigned gift shop in the building that it will operate, and that its executive director will also have an office in the building.
“We are extremely happy to have this partnership with the Friends Group,” Kevin Badgley, center manager, said in a statement. “Many members of this group were left without a center when it closed last year, but this newly formed group has found a new direction in our community. By working with MDC and the city of Joplin, the Friends Group’s work compliments many of MDC’s and the city’s efforts by assisting with trail maintenance, conservation education, resource protection and community outreach.”
MDC said both its staff and the Friends Group will continue offer public service and educational programs at the center.
Hours for the center will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. The building will be closed Sunday, Monday and all state holidays. Trails at Shoal Creek are open every day from sunrise to sunset.