July 13 dedication of new MDC central regional office to honor E. Sydney Stephens

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COLUMBIA, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) will hold a building dedication and ribbon cutting of its new Central Regional Office and Conservation Research Center at 1 p.m. on July 13. The building is being dedicated to E. Sydney Stephens, a conservation pioneer with deep roots in Columbia and Missouri.

“E. Sydney Stephen’s played a critical role in the formation of MDC 75 years ago,” said Jeff Cockerham, MDC Outreach and Education regional supervisor. “He drafted the conservation amendment to our state constitution and directed the campaign for its adoption. Stephens also served as the first chairman of the Conservation Commission in 1936 and served for two-terms, or 10 years, on the commission.

Stephen’s ties to Columbia go back to his grandfather, who was the founder of Stephen’s College. Stephens was an avid waterfowl and quail hunter, a passion that initially brought him into the conservation field. In the Columbia community, Stephens helped establish Boone County Hospital, held leadership positions in the chamber of commerce and was a member of the Columbia City Council.

Stephens once said, “I’ll never have any money, but that’s not important to me. This [MDC] is my swan song, my one contribution to the state I love.”

The new $6 million facility, which officially opened March 22, houses approximately 120 MDC employees including all Central Regional Office staff and Resource Science Center staff. The facility includes office space, laboratory facilities, a large conference room that will seat about 100 people, an inviting lobby with conservation information and a storage building. The site also includes an outdoor patio for community education and conservation activities.

“MDC regional offices serve as hubs of conservation activities for the public and for regional staff,” said Cockerham. “The new facility provides much-needed and more efficient place for staff, including labs and meeting space. The former regional office and Resource Science Center were each 40 years old and in poor condition.”

The approximately 28,500-square-foot building incorporates “green” building concepts and products as much as possible, such as geothermal heating and cooling, structural insulated panels (SIPS), parallel strand lumber, energy efficient lighting and recycled-content materials, such as steel, acoustical ceiling panels, carpet and a metal roof.

Outdoor landscaping also incorporates “low-impact” development such as ground sculpting and rain gardens to minimize storm water runoff while providing growing space for native plants.

The site includes a one-third-mile ADA-accessible paved trail. Educational signage is planned for along the trail and will highlight backyard/urban conservation principles in practice such as rain gardens, wetland plantings and native plant displays.

The building was designed by architectural design firm Peckman & Wright Architects, Inc. of Columbia and the building construction firm was Verslues Construction Company, Inc., of Jefferson City. Construction began in summer 2010.

The E. Sydney Stephens Central Regional Office and Conservation Research Center is conveniently located off of US Highway 63 just west of the Discovery Parkway exit on the south side of East Gans Road. The service counter is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, except on state holidays. Visitors will be able to pick up free conservation literature including maps to local Conservation areas, obtain hunting and fishing permits, and buy nature books.

The facility is a unique collaboration between the City of Columbia and MDC. Under a “lease-swap” agreement, MDC is leasing the land for the regional office from the City of Columbia. In turn, the City of Columbia is leasing the former central regional office facilities, located at 1907 Hillcrest Drive off of Old 63, and a portion of the property around the facilities from MDC as a Parks and Recreation Department maintenance facility and satellite office.

The former Resource Science Center on the corner of College and Stadium will revert to the University of Missouri – Columbia (MU) according to the terms of the original deed. The land was originally deeded to MDC for construction of a fish and game research center. Since the site has stopped serving that purpose, the property will revert back to MU.

For more information, call 573-815-7900.