Presque Isle State Park’s Tom Ridge Environmental Center marks 10-year anniversary
It began with a ribbon-cutting on a soggy day in 2006, but the Tom Ridge Environmental Center at Presque Isle State Park opened its doors to the public on May 26 that year with sunny aspirations to be the peninsula’s prime place for nature learning and interpretation.
Listening to the impressions from staff and visitors in 2016, it hasn’t disappointed.
“Since it was opened, the TREC has grown into a hub of environmental education and research,” Assistant Park Manager Holly Best said. “The partners within the building not only lease space, but join together to create work groups and a synergy to address challenging environmental issues.”
The 65,000-square-foot center was built as a premier “green building” within Pennsylvania’s state park system. It was designed to achieve a silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED—Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design—is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. To receive LEED certification, building projects satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification.
“As the government agency with a conservation mission, DCNR is leading by example,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “As part of a strategic initiative on green infrastructure and sustainability, we are aiming to increase by 50-percent the number of high-performing buildings like TREC in our system, share our expertise, and align our grant programs to help support projects that further sustainable practices.”
Currently, DCNR has 13 LEED certified buildings, 4 more are currently going through the certification process while 4 are in the planning stage. A story map is available to highlight some of these types of buildings within DCNR.
Incorporated into the center’s design and function are environmental features such as:
- Natural ventilation
- An inverted roof to collect rainwater
- Materials made from recycled content
- Native landscaping
- Renewable energy usage
- A porous asphalt parking area
Panels throughout the center explain the green features.
TREC offers visitors information along a self-guided tour which points out the various features of the environmentally-friendly building, such as:
- Using local products and renewable building materials
- Collecting and reusing rainwater and surface runoff
- Utilizing a noteworthy sunshade system in the summer
- providing accommodations for employees who want to be as “green” as possible (like a bike rack and a shower for those who choose to bike in to work).
The center was named in December 2002 as a tribute to former Governor Tom Ridge, who grew up in Erie, worked at the park as a young man and provided funding for the center and numerous Presque Isle projects during his administration. The center includes a prominent, 75-foot tower, and is situated right at the entrance to the state park, providing visitors with an easy way to learn more about sustainability and how green structures save energy and reduce resources.
More than 1.1 million visitors have visited TREC since it opened. And those visitors have taken away a story DCNR is more than happy to share.
“Besides being a public facility, the staff of the TREC reaches beyond the walls of the building to expand the message of environmental education throughout the community,” Best said.
The center is also popular for its unique displays and features, including:
- “Whirligig” towers, which highlight nature, history and recreation spots from around Presque Isle
- Origami mobiles, which feature specially-crafted birds blending art, science and nature
- Floating floors, which actually sit two feet off the floor to provide easy access to utilities, reducing the amount of waste when repairs need to take place and improving air circulation
- Renewable flooring, like cork and marmoleum (plant-based), rather than petroleum-based flooring
To celebrate its 10th birthday, The Tom Ridge Center at Presque Isle State Park will host an open house on June 4 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The day will include a native plant sale, tours of the aqua lab, green building and natural history museum not typically open to the public, “Go Green” story time and a craft for kids, and a coyote and fox talk.
For more information on the center or the open house, visit the TREC website for updates or call (814) 833-7424.
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