Hocking Hills State Park is holding a grand opening for its big, new Visitor Center on Monday, June 24. The park, located just 35 miles west of uptown Athens, is a popular destination for Athens area outdoors enthusiasts.
The new Visitor Center, located at the Old Man’s Cave section of the sprawling state park, at 8,500 square feet is more than twice the size of its predecessor, which was built in the 1980s.
The new building is 8,500 square feet, with an additional 5,000 square feet of usable space in the upper and lower verandas, according to a fact sheet issued by the Ohio Department of Resources. The total cost of design and construction is nearly $6.1 million.
During a tour given to news mediaand others last October, park officials said the new center would be finished in January. However, the completion/opening dates were pushed back because of issues with the contractor at that time, ODNR spokesperson Eric Heis told The NEWSon Monday.
The grand opening is now set for 2 p.m. on Monday. Guests can tour the building, with an optional guided hike taking place following the opening ceremony. The Visitor Center is located at 19852 State Route 664, Logan.
On Monday, Heis also noted that the other big public parks facility in Hocking Hills State Park, the Hocking Hills Lodge, has yet to begin construction but is midway through the design phase. The old lodge was destroyed in a fire in December 2016, and it has taken a good deal of time sorting our insurance and other issues. The new lodge will be located at the same site as the old lodge, a few minutes drive to the southwest from Old Man’s Cave and the new Visitor Center.
Unlike the old lodge, the new facility will include guest rooms. It also will have a dining facility similar to the one that operated in the old lodge. As for an outdoor swimming pool, a popular feature of the old lodge, Heis said that’s being decided during the ongoing design phase of the project.
The new Visitor Center, meanwhile, will boast “a variety of natural-looking finishes to mimic what visitors will see down in the (Old Man’s Cave gorge),” according to the fact sheet. The exterior will be built from Hardi board siding, Pennsylvania river stone, and 16-inch diameter logs for the roof and columns.
The new center’s main attraction, the fact sheet said, will be its exhibits, “which have been developed to help visitors learn about and better understand the unique nature of the Hocking Hills region.
“The displays located on the upper level of the (two-level) building focus on helping visitors navigate the park, forest and nearby nature preserves; learn about the trails systems; and address the safety considerations of hiking these beautiful trails.
“The lower level of the building takes visitors through the history and ecology of the Hocking Region. A large-scale cave built into the center of the room gives visitors a one-of-a-kind experience in learning about the unique geology of the gorges. Visitors will learn about some of the little-known wonders and history of this area and how the state’s foresters took a central role in preserving and protecting the wonders that are the Hocking Hills.”