Groundbreaking ceremony for Theodore Roosevelt Visitor Center

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) on Wednesday helped break ground on the Theodore Roosevelt Visitor Center, which will be located at the Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge. Those wielding shovels included, from left: Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall; David Viker, chief of the Southeast Region National Wildlife Refuge System; Billy Van Devender, owner of the Onward Store; Wildlife Mississippi Executive Director James L. Cummins; Senator Cochran; Simon Roosevelt, great-great grandson of President Roosevelt; Governor Phil Bryant; and Ann Marie Parker, great-niece of Roosevelt hunting guide Holt Collier. ( Photo from Senator Cochran's Office)

ONWARD, Miss. (WJTV)  – Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and U.S. Senator Thad Cochran along with others attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Theodore Roosevelt Visitor Center.

The future visitor center will be located at the Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge.

“Today’s groundbreaking marks the culmination of more than a decade of collaboration and cooperation between the Service and its partners to ensure President Roosevelt’s conservation legacy endures,” said David Viker, the Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System chief in the Southeast Region.  “The Theodore Roosevelt Visitor Center is becoming a reality because of the unwavering commitment of Senator Cochran, Wildlife Mississippi, and numerous other supporters.”

The center will recognize President Roosevelt’s conservation legacy and his famous bear hunt of 1902. The president’s refusal to kill a restrained male bear during the hunt was widely publicized at the time and resulted in the creation in the stuffed toy known today as the teddy bear.  The future visitor center is located on property near the site of the 1902 hunt.

Officials said  marginal crop field near Onward will be the location of an interpretive and educational center with lifelike dioramas, interactive exhibits to educate and engage historic interpretations, state-of-the-art audio-visual productions and an educational classroom/auditorium.

“This visitor center will highlight the most famous hunt on American soil and the world’s most famous toy, the teddy bear,” said James L. Cummins, Wildlife Mississippi’s executive director.  “More importantly, it will recognize the foundational system of public land conservation established by President Roosevelt, one that is thriving today in the Mississippi Delta.  Wildlife Mississippi is pleased to have donated the land for this center and appreciates Senator Cochran, Congressman Thompson and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their work in making this a reality.”

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