04/12/10 — Cliffs museum will be open by summer's end

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Cliffs museum will be open by summer's end

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 12, 2010 1:46 PM

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Construction on the welcome center at the entrance of the Cliffs of the Neuse State Park is seen under way on Thursday.

A new visitors center and museum at the Cliffs of the Neuse State Park is expected to be open by summer's end, said officials, who also announced that the park is now open year-round.

Construction for the 9,000- square-foot two-story building located near the park's entrance began last May and was expected to take a year to complete, said Lyndon Sutton, park superintendent.

"They have been running a little bit behind schedule, so it may be August," Sutton said last week.

The estimated $3 million project was funded through Park and Recreation Trust Fund money.

The building will feature office space -- for both Cliffs' and East District Park staffs -- a classroom, conference room and bathrooms. But perhaps the biggest draw for the public will be the museum.

"It's going to be about 900 square feet -- interactive exhibits, covering geology and park history, Native American history, the flora and fauna of the park," explained Sutton.

The goal is to keep the visitors center and museum open seven days a week, which would mean hiring additional staff. Currently, he said, the park employs seven -- himself, three park rangers, two maintenance workers and an office assistant.

The season traditionally kicks off full force Memorial Day weekend, Sutton said, but since reopening March 15, they have already had big crowds each weekend. Swimming, picnicking, hiking, boating and canoeing are among the most popular activities at the campground.

An array of activities and events are also scheduled throughout the season, including classes on safety and beginner classes in canoeing.

That is expected to continue, as officials expand the schedule.

"From now on, we're going to keep it open year-round," Sutton said. "We used to close Nov. 30, but were able to winterize the bathrooms in the campground."

While many may be familiar with the Cliffs of the Neuse as a popular place to go camping, or just for a day trip to picnic, swim and walk along the trails, its larger emphasis has been more structured, the superintendent said.

"We do have a lot of school groups, Scouts -- our No. 1 goal is interpretation and education," he said. "We encourage Scouts and school groups to come out."

The following are several events open to the public this month:

* Tuesday, 4-5 p.m. Fun Trail Run. Warm up, learn safety and trail running tips for the slow-paced 2-mile run. Wear trail running shoes or sturdy tennis shoes.

* Saturday, 3:30-4:30 p.m. Hike with a Ranger. Join a ranger in exploring the park and its animals. Rain or shine.

* Sunday, April 18, 1-2 p.m. Spring Tree ID. Join a ranger on a short hike, learn about common characteristics of trees to help identify them and the habitats they provide. Meet at the museum and dress for the weather.

* Sunday, April 18, 4-5 p.m. Ribbet-ing Frog Calls. Learn about frogs in the area and explore a nearby creek. Dress to get muddy and wet.

* Saturday, April 24, 2-3 p.m. Basic Compass Work for Beginners. Learn how to use a compass. Compasses will be provided or bring your own.

Admission to the Cliffs, as well as any of its programs, is free.

For more information on the park, visit the Web site at www.ncparks.gov or call 778-6234.