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New visitor center and ranger district HQ opens in Zigzag


The last time anything new opened at the Zigzag Ranger District office on Highway 26, FDR was in the White House. Some of the original structures, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, still stand, and at long last, a new facility has opened, consolidating all district operations and visitor services in one place.by: POST PHOTO: NEIL ZAWICKI - Acting Zigzag District Ranger Mike Brown says the new visitor center will both consolidate and expand services.

The $2.2 million facility, paid for by Forest Service, federal highways and county funds, began construction late last August, and will officially open next month.

The 7,300-square-foot center will be home to 26 full-time employees as well as a host of seasonal workers. The visitor center features an information desk and gift shop, with informational maps and historical displays. For after-hours visitors, an outdoor gazebo will offer maps and other information.

“The purpose of the new center was to bring our entire workforce under one roof,” said project coordinator Mathew Hackett. “As time has progressed, our work force has shrunk, and we wanted to get all our personnel on one side of the road.”

Acting District Ranger Mike Brown said the new facility will streamline operations while offering a better experience to visitors.

“Maintaining one new facility is much better than maintaining several broken ones,” he said. “It’s consolidated, but we’ve expanded our capacity with visitor services. So we’re servicing not just the forest but the county as well.”

In the past, the county maintained a visitors’ center, and now the ranger district will assume that role.

The new facility remains faithful to the original architecture, in compliance with regulations for historic sites. Also, the rhododendron garden that has stood for generations was largely preserved in the construction process, with many plants having been moved and replanted.

The new center marks a collective “about time” for many district regulars, and this point was illustrated July 12, when a couple emerged from the car and conveyed to Brown their surprise at the discovery, even before its official opening.

“Is this the new visitor center?” one asked. “This is great, because for years you guys kept moving it all over the place!”

The new office opened for visitors June 27, and will be open seven days a week from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It will be closed between noon and 1 p.m.