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13 February 2009

Updated! 2/16/2009

Click here for Grand Opening Details and the Schedule!


JSU Canyon Center Set for
Grand Opening Weekend,
February 21-22

At the June 2007 groundbreaking of Jacksonville State University's Little River Canyon Center, JSU Trustee, alum and Grammy award-winning Country Music Hall of Famer Randy Owen called the event the realization of a dream.

Near the Canyon's rim, in the heart of the country just down the road from the creek where Owen's daddy taught him to swim and the church where his grandparents had been married in 1921, his university was about to embark on a "really, really positive thing," an education center that would be an "environmentally friendly, state-of-the-art, trendsetting structure," according to Owen.

Fewer than two years later, Jacksonville State University and the National Park Service are preparing the official opening of the Little River Canyon Center on February 21-22.

The public grand opening will be on Sunday, February 22 from 1 - 5 p.m. This free event will feature tours, programs, presentations, music, food and artists.

A second, invitation-only event will take place on Saturday, February 21. This event's primary purpose will be to thank partners, donors and contributors to the project, as well as other supporters of JSU's Capital Campaign: "The Power of 125: join the Celebration." (If individuals or businesses are interested in donating to JSU, they may still do so at

According to Pete Conroy, director of JSU's Environmental Policy and Information Center, whose involvement with the project began with lobbying for funding back in 1989, the JSU Canyon Center was created for everyone and is also set up to help everyone. Built on property partially donated by Alabama Power and partially purchased by the university, the JSU Canyon Center will serve as the headquarters of National Park Service personnel serving the district as well as the permanent home for JSU's Little River Canyon Field School. The building will also 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.

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

"We're doing everything we can to be a model to others," Conroy said of the Center, adding that the Little River Canyon Center will serve as the "gateway to all natural things," a hub for education, cultural and recreational activities, not just for Alabama but for the Southeast.

Even though the National Park Service employees may be the people who most often see the Canyon Center, all local residents should feel welcome and part of the new Canyon Center team. Beginning on Feb. 22, the Center's hours of operation and a calendar of programs, classes, service projects and opportunities provided by JSU, the NPS, volunteers and other partners of the project will be posted at the Center. A website is also in the works.

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. Correspondingly, the Center should not only add to the region's reputation but also to its economy, as it is certain to increase revenue for local retailers, hotels, service stations, restaurants and other related establishments.

Volunteer opportunities will be made available on a regular basis. 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.

For more information about the JSU Canyon Center, please call (256) 782-8010 or check out this video on YouTube:


Facts and Features Of Little River Canyon Center

* Facility is 23,000 square feet

* 100 outdoor recreation/environmental education programs conducted each year from Canyon Center.

* LEED= Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-- The Center is reigstered, but will not be eligible for LEED Silver certification until six months after the building is occupied.

* Heating and Cooling System- Continuous Closed Loop System consisting of 36 geothermal wells, each of which is 300 feet deep, providing enough temperature exchange to offset heating and cooling resources. The system takes the fluid down to 57 degrees, which helps regulate temps both summer and winter. The loops are connected to pumps in the building; by the time it reaches the coils it is 64 degrees, then heat or cool is added to achieve the desired temperature. Installaion of this system added $105,000 to the project; however, it should pay for itself in 8-10 years due to an estimated $20,000/year in energy savings.

* Each room has lighting/occupancy motion sensors that turn lights off and on.

* Carbon dioxide sensors (for temperature control) in rooms will keep rooms at a minimal temperature level, but that will change automatically if a room becomes occupied.

* Restrooms at the facility feature waterless urinals and high power handblowers.

* Decking around the Center is made of recycled materials (pop bottles). Floor mats are made of recycled materials and remove particles from shoes, which can affect air quality. The siding is masonite, which has recycled content in the concrete. Counter tops are made of recycled glass. Fake stone at the Center are made from 20% recycled content (concrete) and were made in Dublin, Georgia, a local source, which saved transportation costs.

* Insulation at the Canyon Center is a cellulose material made from recycled newspaper. It was blown into the exterior walls and ceiling to fill all voids around the electrical boxes and provide a much greater thermal barrier. Because of the process used to manufacture the material, there is no off-gassing.

* Pavement with dispersed parking-- the shade trees were left in the parking lot so that the parking lot does not become a heat island. The asphalt also contains recycled material so it is more porous than normal, and prime parking places will be designated for energy efficient vehicles.

* Trees that were cut during construction were used for mulch in the landscaping. All construction waste was sorted for recycling.

* Rooms use day-lighting (LEED points for day-lighting and views)

* The roof of the Center is highly reflective so it does not create a heat island. The building is oriented so that the bulk of the windows face north or south for consistent light and temperature. East and West windows can have a large variation in heat and light; there are very few east/west windows. The building also has a low profile that fits the landscape.

* Thirty-five percent of the building materials used in the Center were manufactured locally including wood framing, concrete, manufactured stone, siding and many interior finishes.

* All materials used had zero VOCs (volatile organic compounds) so there was no off-gassing. VOCs are organic chemical compounds that have high enough vapor pressures under normal conditions to significantly vaporize and enter the atmosphere-- including floor wax, paints, finishes, cleaning products, etc.

* A water catchment system will be added later.


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