Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Columbia Nature Center

HoCo Exec Ken Ulman's capital budget (that's the one used to build stuff) includes $9.5 million for a nature center in the Middle Patuxent preserve in the western part of Columbia. This would be the first county-owned nature center. When we were growing up, before computer games and TiVo, there was no better day out than a picnic at the Rock Creek nature center in Washington. When we moved to Columbia, we made periodic trips to Patapsco State Park. And does anyone remember the petting zoo at Symphony Woods?

Here's an excerpt from the project description:

In February of 2005, the County purchased 18.4 acres from the Middle Patuxent Nature Center Foundation (now the Robinson Nature Center Foundation). This parcel was deeded to the Foundation as a gift from Anne S. Robinson under the conditions that the Foundation sell the property to the County and that a nature center be constructed on the property. Mrs. Robinson also required the Foundation to donate $1 million to the County for the purposes of design and construction of the County’s first Nature Center. Other funds held by the Foundation can be used for the same purpose, or other purposes related to the nature center such as programming and staffing.

The main objective of the Robinson Nature Center is to bring people together with nature, to learn, to experience nature and the environment around them, and to promote an ethic of stewardship of the land.

To that end the Robinson Nature Center will provide Howard County residents with interesting and exciting educational programs that are based on sound scientific information. The focus will be on experience-based learning for the expressed purpose of teaching the importance of our natural and historic resources. Through these programs we will bridge the gap between people and nature and foster responsible stewardship of all our natural resources.

The center will be comprised of a modern nature center with customary indoor exhibits and displays along with outdoor interpretive trails. The trails will be used for outdoor education, and interpretation of the historic Simpsonville Mill and its surrounds. The indoor exhibits and displays will be both interactive and static in nature. In addition to the main exhibit room, the Center will have a large Discovery Room specifically designed for children’s activities with many “hands-on” exhibits and activities. The Discovery Room will capture the attention of children and educate them about their natural environment. The exhibits and activities will be based on sound environmental science while at the same time, offering an exciting and enjoyable learning experience. The programs and exhibits will address environmental issues on a local, regional and global level. The Center will also provide space for meetings, conferences and special events again bringing people together to learn more about our natural environment.

The Robinson Nature Center will be in harmony with the site. Beyond preserving the integrity of the site, we must create a building that “fits" the site. It will be designed and constructed using “Green Building” technologies emphasizing the importance of conserving energy and natural resources.

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