Many nature enthusiasts gathered at Cedars of Lebanon State Park on Saturday for the grand re-opening of the Dixon Merritt Interpretive Center and Butterfly Garden.
The re-opening ceremony continued throughout the day, starting with donuts at coffee at 9 a.m. and ending with a hay ride at 8:15 p.m.
The Interpretive Center, which houses many living and preserved amphibians, reptiles, birds, insects, mammals and more, hopes to become a fun and educational center for families.
The opening day contained many fun and educational activities in which visitors could participate.
It began with Breakfast with the Birds at 10 a.m. Following that, visitors were given the opportunity to meet with the family members of Dixon L. Merritt, who played a role in the creation of the original nature center.
Merritt was an accomplished newspaper man who was editor of the “Lebanon Democrat” as well as “The Tennessean”. Stanley Merritt, Merritt’s son, who participated in the grand opening, talked of his father’s love for human interest stories, and how that was part of what inspired Merritt to create the nature center.
Throughout the day visitors admired the butterfly garden and perused the many animals lining the walls of the nature center.
Snakes, foxes, turkeys, birds and bees all made appearances in the exhibit. In addition to the wildlife attractions, several local bands performed throughout the day to serenade the visitors of the center. Park rangers also led visitors in a nature walk to Jackson Cave to view the cave ecosystem.
At 1 p.m., Merritt performed the official ribbon cutting ceremony of the re-opened center. Park rangers and visitors gathered to thank all those who had participated in the rebuilding of the exhibit.
The Dixon Merritt Interpretive Center and Butterfly Garden took nine months of planning and building to complete. In it’s now finished condition, the park hopes to provide and enjoyable educational experience to all who visit.
The Center can be visited in Cedars of Lebanon State Park between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.