Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Arkansas: GFC Cuts Ribbon on New Nature Center Attraction

SPRINGDALE – Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Chairman Bobby Martin and AGFC staff welcomed local leaders and community members today to cut the ribbon on a new playground at the J.B. and Johnelle Hunt Family Ozark Highlands Nature Center in Springdale.

Martin addressed a crowd of more than 100 fifth-graders from northwest Arkansas, stating that he wished he had “the crowd’s energy” at the special event. He added that this latest addition to the AGFC’s newest nature center is a perfect example of ways the AGFC engages young Arkansans to build a lifelong passion for the outdoors.

“This is a great facility to help kids get outdoors,” Martin said.

Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse also spoke about the addition and the work the AGFC and its many partners have put into making northwestern Arkansas a hub of outdoor recreation.

“I want to thank the AGFC and the Walton Foundation for this great looking playground,” Sprouse said. “Kids will now get outside and enjoy what God has given us.”

The unique playground was constructed by Natural State Treehouses using locally sourced natural materials. Much of the wood used was repurposed from an invasive cedar removal project in partnership with the Ozark Natural Science Center.

Tabbi Kinion, chief of the AGFC’s Education Division, was excited about the opportunity to showcase the playground, which has already been discovered by many regular visitors of the nature center and field trip groups.

“This playground could not have been completed at a better time with spring break right around the corner and Arkansas families looking for fun activities for their students,” Kinion said. “We’re excited to provide an additional draw to the center as we hope to ignite a passion for the outdoors in Arkansas’s children.”

A grant from the Walton Family Foundation was critical in the addition of the playground. This is the second grant WFF has contributed to the nature center, with the first being used during its initial build in 2019.

“The Ozark Highlands Nature Center is a beautiful educational shared space for the entire region to enjoy,” said Jeremy Pate, Walton Family Foundation Home Region Program deputy director. “The new nature-inspired playground and outdoor spaces add to the experience. It’s a place where everyone can learn, play and connect with one another.”

The J.B. and Johnelle Hunt Family Ozark Highlands Nature Center is a 32,000-square foot facility on 61 acres for learning about the natural world and outdoor recreation in northwest Arkansas. It is the ninth nature center developed by the AGFC with the help of the Amendment 75 Conservation Sales Fund. Learn more about the Ozark Highlands Nature Center at or follow the nature center on Facebook at

Contact: Steve Dunlap, 479-409-5243