ARNOLD — A new visitor center could open at Calaveras Big Trees State Park in spring 2012.
Park managers plan to call for construction bids Oct. 1 on the project, expected to cost about $2.7 million, project manager Mike Romo told the Calaveras Big Trees Association last week.
The center will be built next to the North Grove parking lot and have a bookstore, exhibits and space for educational programs. Among the displays will be a walk-through replica of a giant sequoia showing visitors the inside of the tree the park celebrates.
"This new facility will be telling the giant sequoia story to a whole new generation of park visitors who will be the future stewards of these magnificent trees," association president Marcy Crawford said in a news release.
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The group raised $500,000 for the project. The rest of the money comes from a voter-approved bond issue for state parks.
The center will replace a smaller, older building. Its design reflects that of the park's Jack Knight Hall, a 1930s building.
The new center's back deck will overlook the North Grove, the starting point for most of the 200,000 people who visit the park each year.
The Department of Parks and Recreation aims to finish construction before the first snow in late 2011, then open the center in early spring 2012.
Big Trees, which was made a state park in 1931, has giant sequoias as big as 250 feet in height and 25 feet in trunk diameter.