The Cuyahoga Valley National Park wants to open its first full-service visitor center to help the millions of park visitors, especially those from other states and countries, find their way around the popular destination and the entire region.

The effort is being driven by a nearly $6 million fundraising campaign by the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the friends-of-the-park group.

That fundraising campaign — the biggest ever undertaken by the nonprofit grass-roots group — has quietly raised $3.8 million or nearly 64 percent for the welcome gateway in northern Summit County. Officials are optimistic that the remaining $2.1 million will be donated by Dec. 31.

If the money is raised, design plans for the three-building complex off Riverview Road in Boston Township would be prepared in 2017 and construction would begin in 2018. The new visitor center would open in late 2018 or early 2019.

The Cuyahoga Valley park has never had a full-service visitor center, and that’s been a desire for many years.

It is something that many park visitors expect, seek out and need at major national parks, the conservancy says.

The facility is planned as the No. 1 stop for visitors to learn about park attractions and activities, especially for the growing number of visitors from other states and countries. It would also provide park visitors with information about regional attractions in Akron and Cleveland, offering a tourist boost for all of Northeast Ohio.

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