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Lake Anna center has gone futuristic
Walls of video and 3-D theater part of makeover at Lake Anna State Park visitor center

 A large, tented flat-screen TV is one of the new interactive offerings at Lake Anna State Park visitor center. There will also be open areas for classroom-style learning. Park employees meet in one of those spaces in this image.
photos by ROBERT A. MARTIN/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 2/10/2013

By Rob Hedelt

T HE RECENT transformation of the visitor center at Lake Anna State Park couldn't be more dramatic if blinking neon signs had been installed.

Until now, the exhibit at the park in Spotsylvania and Louisa counties was as under-whelming as they come: a mix of dusty stuffed animals, faded pictures and the odd turtle in a terrarium.

Thanks to an effort funded largely by the Virginia Association For Parks, the center adjacent to the parks' beach offers a radically new experience.

It is made up of:

A wall of 70-inch LCD video screens combined to show high-definition footage of geese on the wing or other scenes from state parks.

A "Day at Lake Anna State Park" display that uses a screen inside a tent to create a friendly female camper who recommends neat hikes and a guided tour of a former gold mine.

Walls covered floor to ceiling with images of trees, streams and more.

Interactive displays with questions about the state's flora and fauna, bringing a game-like experience to learning.

An enclosed 3-D theater that will show a short film of dramatic sights and stories from state parks.

"It's all to educate and entertain kids of all ages," said Johnny Finch, president of VAFP and Lake Anna State Park neighbor and supporter. "Everything here is designed to help visitors learn more about and be more connected to this park and others."

I met with Finch and multimedia consultant Fred Lochner of Wisconsin recently to see the dazzling transformation overseen by Lochner's Imperial Multimedia.

Legislators, business leaders and other special guests were being hosted this weekend at a special unveiling.

The public can get a look during a special opening from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 23 and 24, or later in the year when it opens with regular hours.

Finch explained that Lochner's mix of video screens, game-like displays and more form a new approach he and others involved in Virginia parks would like to see expanded.

The VAFP president, who works closely with Virginia State Park's Director Joe Elton, noted that the budget for a major new exhibit in a park's visitor center is typically $500,000 to $1 million.


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