The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) announced recently that Ohio State Parks and Watercraft will build a new visitors center at Hocking Hills State Park in Hocking County. This announcement comes after the Ohio Controlling Board approved more than $5 million for the new 11,500-square-foot facility. Hocking Hills State Park is Ohio’s most visited state park, drawing in more than 2 million visitors each year to the park’s beautiful waterfalls, caves and rock formations.
“Hocking Hills is Ohio’s flagship state park, and it continues to receive international acclaim as one of our greatest natural treasures,” ODNR Director James Zehringer said. “Safety remains our top priority, so being able to offer the public a one-on-one interaction with ODNR trained staff allows us to enhance the experience and safety of our guests as we showcase what the region has to offer.”
This new Hocking Hills Visitors Center will be built where the current structure now stands at the Old Man’s Cave area. The new building will provide amenities focused on hiker and visitor safety, as well as have an improved opportunity to learn important information about the park’s trails and necessary hiking precautions, as well as the history of the area and its geology.
The proposed two-level building will be Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible, offer multiple indoor flush restrooms, an informational kiosk with staff to answer questions, a gift store with necessary hiking equipment as well as educational material to orient visitors with their surroundings. Visitors will be able to see trail conditions and difficulty levels prior to going out on the trails. This will be a first-class visitors center to parallel our most visited and recognized state park.
Ohio State Parks and Watercraft continue to invest in current infrastructure to provide a quality product to our visitors. More than $126.5 million have been allocated in the previous two capital budgets to strengthen the infrastructure and modernize facilities across Ohio’s state park system. More projects are nearing completion or scheduled across the state, and Ohioans are encouraged to offer suggestions about where they would like to see improvements by filling out the survey on the ODNR website at parks.ohiodnr.gov/improvements.
Ohio has 74 state parks, 56 with campgrounds and nine with lodge and conference centers. The Buckeye State is one of only seven states in the nation where admission and parking at state parks are free. Many Ohio families and out-of-state residents visit Ohio State Parks for hiking, fishing, swimming, boating, camping, biking, disc golf, horseback riding and much more. In addition to daily visitors, there were a total of 2.5 million overnight stays last year in Ohio’s state park campgrounds, cabins and lodges.
ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.