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Oak Mountain Park has new science lab

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — Final touches are being made on a science lab at Oak Mountain State Park where Samford University students are to study Earth sciences this fall and tourists can visit exhibits next year.

The Oak Mountain Interpretive Center, a partnership between Samford, the state of Alabama and Shelby County, will be a combination laboratory, museum and classroom.

The center occupies what once was a conference center near the Oak Mountain Wildlife Refuge. Its building has stood vacant for many years.

Alabaster Mayor David Frings, who has doctorate in science, serves as the center's director.

He hopes to model it after DeSoto State Park in Mentone and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, as a place for formal study and for casual visitors to learn about the area's ecology.

"It is a great setting for learning," Frings said.

Shelby County Manager Alex Dudchock said exhibits designed to appeal to tourists should open by March 2008.

Part of Frings' job as director is to persuade private donors to help underwrite the displays. The county's investment in the OMIC amounts to about $150,000 from the lodging tax, which will be mainly devoted to educational exhibit displays and equipment.

The state contributed $385,000 to build a new roof and a deck as well as renovate the building.

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Information from: The Birmingham News

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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