JOPLIN, Mo. – A program about spiders on Friday, Oct. 23 is the next step in a gradual return to normalcy for the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center.
The program, “Spider Safari” beginning at 6 p.m., will be the Shoal Creek Center’s first in-person program since the facility closed its doors to the public March 23 due to health concerns surrounding COVID-19. In the interim, Shoal Creek staff have been doing virtual programs on a variety of conservation topics.
The Shoal Creek facility reopened to the public Oct. 6, but it was a “soft” opening. Because the Joplin area – like many other parts of the state – is still dealing with COVID-19, a low-key re-opening was in the best interest of both MDC staff at the facility and the public. It’s part of a slow-but-steady strategy aimed at getting all components of the Shoal Creek facility up and running again in a healthy fashion.
“The Shoal Creek Center has been closed for more than six months. We know that’s a long time and we appreciate the public’s understanding and patience,” said MDC Southwest Regional Education Supervisor Warren Rose. “We feel a soft reopening allows our staff to better make any needed adjustments related to safety measures for the public and staff alike. We always strive to provide a safe way to engage and educate the public. Now, during this pandemic, we also need to do that while providing for social distancing, which a soft reopening allows us to do.”
The Shoal Creek Center building is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday. Signage inside the Shoal Creek building encourages visitors to social distance. Approximately one-third of the display area inside the building has been temporarily roped off – another measure to limit numbers and contact points inside the facility. Visitors are encouraged, but not required, to wear masks inside the building.
Visitors to the Shoal Creek Center are also encouraged to enjoy the site’s trails, which are open daily from sunrise to sunset. The trail system connects with the network of trails managed by the City of Joplin.
In regards to the Oct. 23 Spider Safari program, the approximately hour-long program is designed for all ages. The event, which is open to 10 participants, will begin with a short program discussing the benefits of spiders. Then participants will then head to the trails for a “spider safari” guided by MDC staff. Participants are asked to bring flashlights and to dress for the weather. People can register for this event at:
Some in-person programs will be offered in the weeks ahead, but staff will also continue to conduct online programs. MDC Education Center Manager Kevin Badgley, who supervises the Shoal Creek facility, hopes to eventually return to a full schedule of in-person programs, but he said there is definitely still a place for virtual programming.
“The public has embraced the wide variety of virtual programs we’ve offered out of the Shoal Creek Center and across the state while our MDC facilities have been closed,” said Badgley. “We look forward to continuing to offer virtual program options as we provide limited outside program opportunities. We encourage Four-State area residents to explore the trails and to get outside and enjoy nature.”
MDC’s Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center is located at 201 Riviera Drive, Joplin. People can find information about monthly programs at the Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center by calling 417-629-3434 or by going to: