Current Environmental Education and Interpretive Programs
Douthat State Park has been hosting interpretive programs for park guests for decades. However, in September of 1998, programming was taken to a new level. At that time, Douthat instituted an environmental education outreach program that has been growing ever since.
Park staff members visit area schools and provide in-park programming based on the needs of the teachers and students to meet the requirements of the Virginia Standards of Learning. Locally, students in Alleghany County, Bath County, and Covington City public schools, as well as private schools and home school students, receive free programs from the park.
In addition, regional schools in Augusta County, Staunton City, Rockbridge County, Highland County, and Botetourt County can receive programming for a minimal travel fee of $15.00 per trip to the school.
As this program continues to grow, so do the needs of the park. Douthat State Park is the only Virginia State Park of its size that does not have a Discovery or Visitor Center. That is why the Douthat Discovery Center is such an important project. It will provide a central location within the park from which all environmental education and interpretive programming will stem. The plan is to renovate the old park horse barn into this Center at a cost approaching one million dollars. An architect has already been assigned by the state to work on this project, but currently there is no funding.
The Center will contain the offices for the interpretive staff, restrooms, shower facilities, a wet lab storage area, an audio-visual center, a library, and a great room containing the displays and educational materials essential to the environmental education that will be conducted in the facility. The great room will be set up in a way that will encourage students and park visitors to “flow” through the themed center to learn about the local ecology. The wet lab area will allow visitors to go to the creek, gather samples, and explore their findings. The shower facilities are being set up for future adventure programming, including overnight guided backpacking trips.
The Center will be located in an ideal spot in the park. It is close to the Blue Suck Falls Trail head which connects to a major section of Douthat’s 43-mile trail network. The Center will be located in a field with a rock embankment to one side and Wilson Creek to the other. Not only will this provide an excellent opportunity for wildlife observation, but also for studying stream ecology in the wet lab. The field will be surrounded by a Universal Access Trail with special care being taken to provide use to those that are sight impaired. Finally, a small amphitheater area will be constructed to one end of the center for campfire programming.
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