Living laboratory planned for park

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Shelby County Manager Alex Dudchock is hoping funds from the county&8217;s lodging tax can help turn an unused building at Oak Mountain State Park into a living laboratory.

In a report to the Shelby County Commission on Monday, Dudchock

outlined plans for the Oak Mountain Interpretive Center, a partnership with the state and Samford University, creating a laboratory, museum and classroom in a vacant building near the Oak Mountain Wildlife Refuge.

Dudchock said the center will include research facilities for science classes as well as exhibits open to the general public.

The county will pitch in about $150,000 to help fund exhibits and other equipment at the center. The state added $385,000 to help remodel the OMIC building.

Alabaster Mayor David Frings was announced as the director of the center by Samford University last spring. In addition to his municipal responsibilities, Frings is a licensed professional geologist in Alabama.

According to Samford&8217;s OMIC website, by the time the center is completed next spring it will feature a 45-seat auditorium, 2,500 square feet of interactive exhibits, a teaching laboratory, field research equipment and 9,000 acres of forest to be used as an &8220;outdoor classroom.&8221;