Thursday, December 03, 2009

Destroying Nature in Order to Save It?

A couple of people have suggested that I write something about the construction on the new Robinson Nature Center on Cedar Lane in Columbia. For those who may have missed it, the county is spending almost $4 million for the design and construction of a 25,000 square foot nature center on 18.4 acres of land purchased from the Robinson Nature Center Foundation.

The following is a description of the project from the Howard County Recreation & Parks website:

“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.

Still, some locals have been critical at what they see as the heavy handed development program for a “nature center” citing the clearing and grading as being excessive. They point to the claim that the center “will be in harmony with the site” and that the building preserves “the integrity of the site” and wonder how that jibes with the clearing and cutting they are doing.

I don’t know about that. This is a big facility that will serve to educate a large number of school children about our environment. The firm that was hired to design this facility, GWWO Architects, has designed nature centers all around the country including the Everglades National Park. No doubt they have taken precaution to preserve as much of the site as possible. In this case, I believe the end result will justify the means and make this an important addition to the 1,021 acre Middle Patuxent Environmental Area.


Anonymous said...

"No doubt they have taken precaution to preserve as much of the site as possible"?

You show a photo of a crane next to a toppled tree, demonstrating total preservation wasn't achieved, thereby of course generating doubt that as much precaution as possible was taken.

Nature doesn't have to be consumed to create nature centers. It is possible to consume already built space instead, and restore it to a natural state worthy of siting a nature center for learning.