Beaver Creek Wildlife Education center opens

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Beaver Creek Wildlife Education Center
Hailey Shamp, 7, looks at the bears in the North American Wildlife room with her parents, Ariel and Cody Shamp of Columbiana, on opening day for the Beaver Creek Wildlife Education Center July 18. (Barbara Mudrak photo)

When the Buckler family drove from Monaca, Pennsylvania, they weren’t sure the Beaver Creek Wildlife Education Center was open. When they found it was, 7-year-old Connor couldn’t contain himself.

“He yelled, ‘Yes! I love this place!'” said his mom, Shiana.

Indeed, the center in the southeast corner of Columbiana County was open for the first time this year July 18. It promises to be open every Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m., and some Sundays as well.

Variety of exhibits

On the day of the reopening, Connor and his brother, Cameron, 9, could see their favorite exhibits inside the center, which is also a natural history museum. They especially love the room where visitors can watch birds — including hummingbirds — and other wildlife through the large picture windows.

But on this day, they could also learn about flint knapping from Lewis “Chip” Hudson, who says it’s been his passion for the past 20 years. He makes arrowheads from flint, but also chert, obsidian, porcelain and glass, including the big green globes once used as insulators on telephone poles. Hudson mounts the arrowheads on wooden shafts and uses recurve bows that he’s made to hunt “anything that’s in season,” he said.

Connor and Cameron, both students at Central Valley, also made magnetic butterflies with Carolyn Roble, a retired art teacher from Columbiana. She had some butterfly mounts — and a gizmo that magnified them onto a screen — so she could point out their features and the differences between them and moths.

Russ Henry, president of the wildlife center, showed a snake skin — the latest molted by a resident black rat snake — to Jonathan Weyand and his mom, Carrie Duke.

Gregory Daniel, who lives nearby, planned the trip to the center as a surprise. “I love it here. I was excited when it opened again,” he said as the three looked at the snakes, turtles and a hive of bees in the Ohio Wildlife room, which contains both live and mounted species native to the state.

Hailey Shamp, 7, of Columbiana, was especially intrigued with the bees. Their hive is enclosed in glass so that visitors can see hundreds of bees building honeycomb as the queen lays her eggs.

“We saw it was open and came for the butterfly craft,” said Hailey’s dad, Cody Shamp. It was the first trip to the center for them and mom, Ariel, but probably won’t be the last.

“We’re always outdoors, walking in the woods, so this is the kind of thing we like,” Cody said. The center has a .6-mile trail called Logan’s Loop, the result of two Eagle Scout projects.

COVID impact

Elaine Reiter of Salem was stationed at the “new” entrance to the center in the North American Wildlife room, welcoming visitors, telling them of procedures to protect against COVID-19, and handing out masks to those who didn’t bring them. In the past, only five volunteers were necessary to staff the center, she said. Now 10 are needed because of COVID safety rules that include one-way traffic and social distancing. New cleaning procedures are also in place.

“Although we always kept it really clean,” Reiter said, noting that the mounts of elk, caribou, bobcats and other North American mammals have to be kept free of cobwebs. All the mounts were donated, many of them by Reiter’s father, an avid hunter.

The center’s executive committee had to submit a plan for re-opening to the state. They found out it was approved the first week of July, then hustled to get everything ready. Kathy Cattrell, treasurer of the center, said it’s been a tough year financially because of the COVID crisis. “We shut down in October and just didn’t reopen in May,” she said. “We couldn’t have our usual fundraiser in April.”

Although it is within the boundaries of Beaver Creek State Park, the center gets no state or federal funding. Rather, it must depend on grants, donations and proceeds from the gift shop, Cattrell said.

Open through October

She said the wildlife center will definitely be open on Saturdays through October, and possibly some Sundays, depending on whether they can get enough volunteers. The center had 20 visitors within the first hour or so on opening day. Then more groups, mostly families with children, started arriving.

“Things are going better than I thought they would,” said Henry, whose duties include coming in three times a week to feed and care for the snakes, turtles and other live critters in the Ohio room.

More programs are tentatively planned, including a wildlife and nature photography and art show Aug. 22 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and a Tai Chi class Aug. 29 at 10 a.m. Both will be in the center’s new pavilion, constructed last December.

Check the center’s website, beavercreekwildlife.org, or the Facebook page for Beaver Creek Wildlife Education Center for updates and additional programs.

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