Tom Ridge Environmental Center Now Open at Presque Isle in Erie
Gov. Rendell this week said the public will get a unique look at nature at Presque Isle State Park in Erie now that the Tom Ridge Environmental Center (TREC) is open.
“This one-of-a-kind center offers a unique blend of education and research facility, tourist destination and one-stop-shop for Presque Isle Sate Park administration,” Gov. Rendell said. “Presque Isle is one of our most spectacular and visited parks in the state, and this center will serve as its gateway, connecting the public – residents, school children, researchers, visitors – to nature in exciting and different ways.”
TREC was named in December 2002 as a tribute to former Gov. 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.
“This park has been a part of my entire life,” said Gov. Ridge at the ribbon cutting ceremonies. “It’s an honor to have this facility bear my name, knowing the incredible impact it will have on the young children who visit it, the researchers who make new discoveries in its laboratories, and the new people it introduces to Presque Isle and the vibrant Erie region.”
The 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. Incorporated into its 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 and a porous asphalt parking area. Panels throughout the center explain the green features.
Highlights of the 65,000-square-foot center include:
· Interactive and whimsical exhibits that highlight Presque Isle’s natural and cultural history, and unique flora and fauna;
· Five indoor classrooms for educational and interpretive programming and a special hands-on place for pre-school children;
· A research wing hosting a consortium of 31 local colleges, universities and environmental organizations with eight laboratories and three aquariums of the fish of Lake Erie and its tributaries;
· A 75-foot, glass-enclosed tower that resembles a lighthouse with a deck offering a dramatic view of the vastness of Lake Erie;
· A 175-seat, large-format theater featuring environmental and adventure films;
· A Nature Shop where local artwork, souvenirs and specialty items can be purchased;
· A 60-seat orientation theater that will introduce visitors to Presque Isle; and
· The Sunset Café, where visitors can get a meal or a box lunch to take to the park.
TREC is situated on a 12-acre parcel on the bluff overlooking Lake Erie at the entrance to Presque Isle. Construction began in August 2002.
Presque Isle State Park currently averages four million visitors a year, most of whom come between June and September. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources manages the park and the new center.
“One of the goals of the center is to increase off-season use of Presque Isle State Park,” DCNR Secretary Michael DiBerardinis said. “Our studies showed longer and repeat visitation to the center could initially be worth an additional $3 million annually to the region’s economy – a great example of how important our natural resources are to our economic vitality.”
DiBerardinis said repeat visits will be encouraged because there will always be something new at the center, including exhibits, movies, educational programming and special events.
Presque Isle State Park is a 3,200-acre sand peninsula attached to the mainland, four miles west of downtown Erie. It is a favorite spot for bird migration; has more than 3,000 species in its ecosystem, including 130 that are threatened, endangered or rare; and is a major recreational landmark for outdoor activities such as fishing, swimming, birding, biking and kayaking.
General admission to TREC is free. For more information, visit the Tom Ridge Environmental Center website.
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