Lack of money puts center on hold

Published 12:51 am Friday, April 22, 2011

Work on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ planned center in Rolling Fork to showcase Mississippi’s wildlife and the environment has been suspended.

The Vicksburg Post reports that the Corps announced Wednesday that funding for engineering and design for the future $6 million center was rescinded in the six-month spending bill signed by President Obama on April 15. The bill averted a government shutdown while cutting $38 billion, including $40 million in non-defense discretionary programs.

In 2010, the Corps said it expected to open the Holt Collier Interpretive and Education Center by early 2012. A new, 3,800-square-foot building was purchased to house wildlife exhibits from around the state and host educational programs as part of a collaboration of the Corps, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Rolling Fork and Sharkey County.

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The center was first authorized in 2004. The 33-acre site in Rolling Fork was chosen from 74 sites in five Mississippi counties.

Collier, a former slave, guided President Theodore Roosevelt on a bear hunt in Sharkey County in 1902 that led to the creation of the teddy bear after the president refused to shoot a bear that had been corralled for him.

Exhibits mentioned when the Corps picked Rolling Fork included homages on Collier and the bear hunt, explanations of Native American burial mounds found on the site, the Steele Bayou campaign during the Civil War and the overall ecological and cultural significance of the Mississippi Delta.

The iconic Red Barn off U.S. Highway 61 in Rolling Fork was included in the purchase. Though not considered by the Corps to be part of the interpretive center, a plaque explaining the significance of the barn was to be placed inside the center.