State-of-the-art visitors’ center opens at Hula Valley Nature Reserve
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State-of-the-art visitors’ center opens at Hula Valley Nature Reserve

At new building, named for former Canadian PM Stephen Harper, visitors will be able to experience flying like a bird

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

  • The new Hula Valley Reserve's visitors' center, officially opened on November 6, 2019. (Michael Huri)
    The new Hula Valley Reserve's visitors' center, officially opened on November 6, 2019. (Michael Huri)
  • An interactive wall at the new Hula Valley Reserve's visitors' center officially opened on November 6, 2019. (Michael Huri)
    An interactive wall at the new Hula Valley Reserve's visitors' center officially opened on November 6, 2019. (Michael Huri)
  • The new Hula Valley Reserve's visitors' center, officially opened on November 6, 2019. (Michael Huri)
    The new Hula Valley Reserve's visitors' center, officially opened on November 6, 2019. (Michael Huri)
  • The new Hula Valley Reserve's visitors' center, officially opened on November 6, 2019. (Michael Huri)
    The new Hula Valley Reserve's visitors' center, officially opened on November 6, 2019. (Michael Huri)

The hangar-like visitors’ center at Israel’s Hula Valley Nature Reserve has been replaced by a spanking-new, $37.3 million, building, unveiled Wednesday.

Covering 3,000 square meters (32,300 feet), the center includes virtual reality stations where you can imagine you’re a bird in flight; an 18-square-meter (194 square feet) interactive digital wall featuring a live feed of the birds visiting the reserve and trivia questions answered by a device that recognizes your hand movements; a 3D digital model of the Hula Valley, dynamically updated with terrain data; and a 220-seat auditorium with a 4K projector.

Taking ten years to complete, the state-of-the-art structure is a joint venture of KKL JNF Jewish National Fund and JNF Canada and is named for Stephen Harper, who served as Canada’s prime minister from 2006 to 2015.

Daniel Atar, KKL-JNF World chairman, said at the opening, “Lake Hula is a prime destination not only for migrating birds, but for tourists from everywhere. This new beautiful center is going to bring in many more visitors and lift the northern Galilee’s entire economy.”

Former Canadian PM Stephen Harper (fourth from left) and Daniel Atar, KKL-JNF World Chairman (fifth from left), help cut the ribbon to officially open a new visitor’s center at the Hula Valley Nature Reserve on November 6, 2019. (Michael Huri)

Stephen Harper said, “This park is one of the greatest restoration stories, just like this country is to the Jewish people. It is a magnificent honor to have this center named after me.”

Although it has certain environmentally sensitive features, such as a grass roof, the building does not have official green building certification.

The Hula Valley Nature Reserve, whose lake has been partially restored after the original marshes were dried out during the 20th century, is one of the most important wetland habitats for resident and migrating bird species in the Middle East.

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