Sweetwater Creek State Park Interpretive Center

In the mid 1990’s, a small group of people committed to the lasting health, conservation and preservation of the park organized into the Friends of Sweetwater Creek State Park, Inc. A primary goal of this group was to develop the circumstances necessary to establish a facility dedicated to the orientation and education of the park users. The vision of this building from the beginning included displays detailing the historic, cultural and natural resources of the park, meeting space for educational programs and park offices. It would become the nerve center of the park.

Through the remainder of the 1990’s, the FSWCSP realized that the state legislature was not going to authorize the estimated two million dollars needed for this project. They were, however successful in persuading the state to commit $1.5 million matching funds with the provision that the remaining half million dollars to be raised locally. After several years of fundraising, including a $250,000 contribution from the Woodruff Foundation, a $100,000 anonymous gift and scores of smaller local donations, the building was fully funded by the end of the year 2004.

In the meantime, the Engineering and Construction Section of The State Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites Division began design work in anticipation of the funding success. It was during this period that the decision was made to construct the facility under the LEED program, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design which when followed produces what is commonly known as a “green” building. The results are a facility that utilizes recyclable or recycled building products, reduces or eliminates many of the harmful chemicals commonly found in building construction, minimizes site disturbance, captures and reuses rainwater, minimizes the loss of heating and cooling and utilizes solar energy. We anticipate at this writing a Gold rating under the LEED program with a possible Platinum certification.

Construction began in the spring of 2005. Unfortunately this coincided with a spike in the world price of certain construction materials, principally wood and steel. The need to remain within budget resulted in the reduction in landscaping around the building and the deferment of certain exhibit fabrication pending future funding. In spite of these reductions and several construction delays, the Sweetwater Creek Interpretive Center is scheduled for a July 8, 2006 opening with a dedication sometime in the autumn of 2006.

Housed in the facility are displays reflecting the New Manchester Manufacturing Company and it’s operation. Future exhibits will cover Native American influence on the property, local Civil War history, native flora and fauna and the geology of the area. Estimated costs of these exhibits are expected to be in excess of $200,000. Not to be overlooked is the green nature of the building itself as an exhibit. A dividable classroom and a small environmental lab room will be available for educational programs. Rest rooms, featuring mulching toilets are available. The central park offices will be located here as well. A future phase two will contain additional exhibit space, meeting space for the Friends of Sweetwater Creek and a theater/auditorium.

We anticipate that this Interpretive Center will finally fill that need for the central focus point, where new and repeat visitors can be oriented to, or reminded of, why Sweetwater Creek State Conservation Park exists and why that is so important. I hope that you are as proud of this center as we are.

Vince Taylor
Park Manager