Rocky Mountain Arsenal Visitors' Center opens to the public

Over the past fifteen years, the federal government has turned the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, once one of the most contaminated Superfund sites in the United States, into a wildlife refuge, complete with nature trails, lakes for fishing and summer camps. Tomorrow, the Arsenal will open its newest attraction, a 12,500-square-foot, $7.6 million visitors' center that was constructed with renewable or recycled materials (including beetle-kill trees) and is designed to be environmentally friendly. It will feature a classroom, an auditorium, a gift shop, an activities area and an exhibit showcasing the Arsenal's history as a chemical weapons-producing facility and its transition to a 15,000-acres wildlife refuge that supports 330 species of wildlife.

Last October, Shell Oil Company and the U.S. Army finished their massive $2.1 billion cleanup of the Arsenal and handed it over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Now the refuge "receives more than 25,000 visitors per year," according to the agency. "With the end of the environmental cleanup and residential development now surrounding the site, visitation to the Refuge is expected to increase to 200,000 per year by 2020."

In addition to the new visitors' center, there is also a new entrance to the refuge at Quebec Street and Prairie Parkway.

The center technically opens today to host the 1st Annual Rocky Mountain Wildlife Film Festival, which runs May 20-22 and May 27-29, and will highlight nature documentaries.

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes