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Corp opens visitors' center at Table Rock Lake | Environment

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Corp opens visitors' center at Table Rock Lake
Corp opens visitors' center at Table Rock Lake

BRANSON, Mo. -- The Army Corps of Engineers' Little Rock District held a ribbon cutting ceremony April 27 for the new Dewey Short Visitor Center at Table Rock Lake near Branson.

The $10.8 million center, which is situated near the dam and the Corps’ project office, is one of a handful of regional Class A facilities in the Corps nationwide.  The 15,000-square-foot facility will have three functional areas: the visitor area, which will include exhibits, a 75-seat theater and a gift shop; the educational area, which will include a multi-purpose room and wet lab; and an administrative office area.

The engaging exhibits emphasize Table Rock dam, lake and powerhouse.  They depict how this project fits into the entire White River Basin.  There are fascinating interactive displays about the Ozark Mountain region and its unique culture and ecosystems.

“The exhibits provide an educational, fun and interactive learning environment that makes this a destination of choice for schools, young adults, senior citizens and tourists,” Little Rock District Commander Colonel Glen Masset said.

Design of the building itself focused on energy efficiency, building sustainability, and low maintenance.

“The visitor center has been submitted for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification, the second-highest rating in green standards and efficiencies,” Masset said.

The design and construction contractor was Lime Energy Services Co., of Huntersville, N.C.  Day to day operations of the new center will be managed by the Ozarks Rivers Heritage Foundation under an ongoing agreement with the Corps.

“Ozark Rivers Heritage Foundation ran our old visitor center and we are pleased that this partnership will continue with the new facility,” the colonel said.

The center will be a welcome addition to the major tourism industry that has developed since the Corps constructed Table Rock Lake.  The state of Missouri reports visitor spending in Taney, Stone and Barry counties was about $613 million in fiscal 2011.  The state of Arkansas reports visitor spending in Boone and Carroll counties was about $227 million.

While the lake is not the only attraction in these five counties, the fact that visitor spending totals nearly $840 million attests to the importance of recreation and tourism in the Table Rock Lake region. 

The new facility is about twice the size of the old Dewey Short Visitor Center.  With the opening of the new facility, the project office will absorb the square footage that was devoted to the old visitor center.