The J.B. and Johnelle Hunt Family Ozark Highlands Nature Center is designed to educate the public about hunting, fishing, and conservation specifically related to ecosystems unique to the Northwest Arkansas region. Aquariums, interactive exhibits, a marksmanship center, and meeting spaces are featured in the main buildings of the campus. The Osage Prairie restoration throughout the 65 acre site will be home to Quail and an outdoor archery course.
A few years prior to beginning design of the project The City of Springdale donated the 65 acre to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). AGFC had no real presence in Northwest Arkansas so it was an ideal opportunity to develop a “destination” facility to serve the residents of this growing and vibrant area of the State. The rolling, partially wooded site is located directly south of Spring Creek, and will ultimately connect via a spur bike trail to the Razorback Greenway trail system.
After months of working with the AGFC Staff, regional educational themes for the facility began to emerge. Quail prairie restoration, karst geological formations, black bear habitat, archery, and unique outdoor destinations of the Ozark region were selected to be main design determinates for the exhibits, and ultimately the organizational concept for the building.
The karst formations of the Ozark Highlands are expressed in the architecture by the stone “service core” formations, angled plan intersections, and tilted roof planes of each building. The resultant spaces create the experience of passing through narrow passage ways and natural shelters found in the deep valleys of the Ozarks. The four main buildings of the complex interlock along natural contours of the site and are nestled above the southern tree lined shoreline of Spring Creek.
The four campus buildings are organized on the site to orient visitors to a paved trail to two outdoor pavilions located on the western end of the site. These pavilions serve as staging and educational gathering areas for Quail restoration education and an outdoor archery skills range.
Ultimately, the intent of this facility is to educate youth to the natural beauty of the region and perpetuate the Arkansas hunting and fishing tradition for generations to come.