After decades of planning and preparation, the long-awaited Canyon Center grand opening is weeks away.

The Jacksonville State University Canyon Center will open to the public on Feb. 22. A public opening will be from 1-5 p.m. that will include tours, programs, presentations, music, food and artists.

“The JSU Canyon Center is for everyone, and it is also set up to help everyone,” said Director Pete Conroy. “The building will provide the community with spaces for meetings, family gatherings, events and celebrations. It will become a place with regularly scheduled educational programs and cultural activities, such as concerts and workshops.”

Conroy said even though National Park Service employees and JSU students may be the people who see the Canyon Center the most, all local residents should feel welcome.

“Starting on Feb. 22, the Canyon Center’s Web site will post hours of operation,” Conroy said. “Also posted will be a calendar with the programs, classes, service projects and opportunities provided by JSU, the NPS, volunteers and other partners of the project.

“In addition to the activities that will be provided, the Canyon Center will act as a positive regional addition, promoting Fort Payne and DeKalb County as a destination for students, tourists and outdoor enthusiasts.”

Little River Canyon National Preserve Chief Ranger Kim Kirk said the center’s proximity would greatly help both visitors and employees.

“It will be closer to the park, which will be an asset to the visitor,” Kirk said. “That will help the park a great deal with visitor services. This will be everyone under one roof.”

Conroy said the Canyon Center should also contribute to DeKalb County’s tourism industry.

“The Canyon Center should not only add to the region’s reputation but also to its revenue accounts,” Conroy said. “The Canyon Center is certain to increase revenue for local retailers, hotels, service stations, restaurants and other related establishments. It will provide easy access to information about JSU, the NPS and its other partners.”

Conroy said the design of the center only adds to its attractiveness.

“The Canyon Center will serve as a national model for sustainable design and architecture,” Conroy said. “Registered as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building, it is the largest geothermally heated and cooled facility in Alabama also featuring a wide variety of eco-friendly building materials and construction techniques that have minimized its impact.”

He said volunteer opportunities would also be available.

“Those who successfully complete the training will be provided with a variety of opportunities to do things, such as greeting visitors, organizing literature, distributing information, assisting in the gift shop or maintaining the grounds, gardens and trails,” Conroy said.

On Feb. 21, Conroy said an invitation-only event is scheduled for Canyon Center donors and contributors.

Ft. Payne Times Journal