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New cabin opens at college’s Howell Woods

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FOUR OAKS — Johnston Community College celebrated the opening of a new cabin at the Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center on Thursday.

The cabin cost is $171,916.01 and is funded from three sources — $50,000 from a Johnston County Visitors Bureau grant; $50,000 from the JCC Foundation’s Howell Woods Endowment; and $71,916.01 from JCC’s capital budget provided by Johnston County.

In 2016, Hurricane Matthew destroyed one of three existing lodging facilities, a 45-year-old house, at Howell Woods. The new cabin complies with American Disabilities Act regulations, sleeps 16 and includes a fully furnished kitchen, two bunkrooms, a washer and dryer and two bathrooms.

With the addition of the third cabin, Howell Woods will now have the capacity to house 32 individuals overnight in three bunk-style lodging facilities.

“Mr. Rudolph Howell’s vision for Howell Woods was for it to be used as an outdoor classroom for environmental education as well as a place for the public to be able to come and recreate,” said Jordan Astoske, Howell Woods director. “The addition of the cabin will allow us to attract larger organizations to participate in company retreats, team-building activities and programs and activities at Howell Woods.”

Howell, a member of the Johnston Community College Board of Trustees and major benefactor to the JCC Foundation, donated more than 2,800 acres of land on the Neuse River to the college in 1995. Now called the Rudolph Howell and Son Environmental Learning Center or Howell Woods, the property is thought to be the largest gift ever donated to a North Carolina community college by a private citizen.

In December 2005, Howell donated more than $1 million for Howell Woods, half of which is endowed for the perpetual preservation of the center located at 6601 Devil’s Racetrack Road in the Bentonville community of southeastern Johnston County outside Four Oaks.

Howell Woods currently offers numerous environmental education classes throughout the year on a variety of topics including bird-watching, bird migration, nature discovery hikes, birdfeeder building, geocaching, night safaris and guided Neuse River kayak trips.

Howell Woods offers day camps, school field trips, a summer camp for kids and a low-ropes course for team-building. The property is also home to a learning center, which showcases live exhibits of native reptiles and birds of prey.