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The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission broke ground on its planned Northwest Arkansas nature center, honoring Northwest Arkansas philanthropist Johnelle Hunt for her family’s incredible contribution to the project.

Today’s ceremony in Springdale on a 61-acre site along Spring Creek was attended by more than 250 people, including Mrs. Hunt, Northwest Arkansas mayors and business leaders, and every member of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Construction on the $18 million facility, which is expected to start early next year, will focus on natural elements and ecosystems found in the northwest region of the state. Construction is estimated to take about three years. Land for the facility was donated by the City of Springdale.

Mrs. Hunt, who founded J.B. Hunt Transport Services with her late husband, and her family provided $5 million for the project. That gift was announced in November 2015.

Mrs. Hunt spoke at today’s event, saying God has a purpose for the vacant land and it’s clear to her that the nature center is that purpose.

Proposed facility highlights include 36,000 square feet of improvements, including a state-of-the-art educational building, indoor and outdoor classrooms, education pavilions, traditional and 3-D archery ranges, watchable-wildlife walking trails, wildlife habitat areas, a creek boardwalk and overlook, native plant gardens, wildlife-viewing blinds, and many other conservation education and outdoor recreation amenities.

Special thanks to our major investors for their support of the Northwest Arkansas Council and our work in the region: