By Leigh Ann Rutledge
PALERMO – Friends, donors and employees gathered in the Muskingum Discovery Center at FFA Camp Muskingum May 21 for a ribbon cutting ceremony.
“It takes a lot of people to get where we are today”, Todd Davis, FFA Camp Muskingum director, said. “That includes staff, customers and donors who believe in the mission. There are a lot of things that happen here that make a difference in the lives of the people who come here.”
Davis thanked everyone in the room for attending the event.
He explained how he and the staff came to this day.
“We didn’t plan it this way and it’s kind of ironic it turned out this way,” Davis stated. “The fire at the Nature Center happened April 11, 2011. We started construction on this project April 11, 2016.”
FFA Camp Muskingum is celebrating its 75th year of existence. “We started in 1942 and we started in a barn in what is today known as Camp Firebird,” he explained. “It’s kind of ironic, 75 years later we are seated in a building that kind of resembles a barn. We didn’t plan it that way, it just happened. We are just thankful everyone is here to celebrate this monumental occasion for the camp.”
Matthew Winkle, executive director Ohio FFA Association and Ag Education for the Ohio Department of Education, spoke to the group, telling of his time as a camper at the camp. He taught FFA education for 15 years and brought campers each year.
“In doing that you could see first hand as an Ag educator the impact the FFA camp and its programming has on students,” he explained.
His group would attend with three or four schools, riding the same bus. Each school group would sit together and the only three speaking would be the advisors. The kids would be very segregated per school as we went to camp.
“By the time camp was over, those three school groups were sitting all together as one group on the way home,” Winkle said. “Those are some of the bonds that are formed at FFA camp. Those are some of the experiences that sometimes go unspoken for the importance and value we see here at FFA camp.”
Ending he said, “I think this building is terrific. It’s going to generate a lot of excitement.”
Davis introduced numerous special guests, including the FFA Camp board and members of the various camps that utilize the camp each year.
Along with tours of the new building, guests enjoyed refreshments and fellowship.
The two-story building is handicapped accessible with entrances on two floors. The top floor has a welcome area with multiple classrooms, a laboratory with a sink and an area for live animals. The Nature’s Classroom area has seating for students in the room.
An IT control room overlooks the grand hall on the main floor and doors open onto a deck that overlooks the lake.
The grand hall has an open wood ceiling, a stage area with audio/visual equipment and a large screen. Flexible seating for events can hold up to 350 people (chairs only) or 200-250 (tables and chairs). A servant’s kitchen is located off the hall and will allow off site catering to be used.
The project was estimated at $1,733,000.
The original Nature Center, built in the mid-to-late1980s and part of the Nature’s Classroom program, was reduced to rubble by the late night fire.
The State Fire Marshal’s office was called to investigate. The cause was determined to be electrical in nature.