|Thursday, Jun 21, 2012|
The National Park Service, along with its partners, dedicated a new interagency visitor center in Santa Monica Mountains NRA on Saturday, June 9th.
Located at King Gillette Ranch in the historic heart of the Santa Monica Mountains, the interagency building unifies the local, state and federal park system for the park's 35 million annual visitors.
"Our goal is to make this complex network of parks more accessible and more understandable to the people of Southern California," said Lorenza Fong, the park’s acting superintendent. "That's why we've moved to a more central location, why we're putting all the park partners in one building, and why we've installed touch screens with bilingual trip planners to help visitors find the perfect outdoor experience - no matter whose land it's on."
More than 800 guests attended the grand opening, which included presentations by elected officials and agency leaders, as well as a range of activities suitable for all ages. Rangers led tours focusing on the history of the surrounding property, the sustainable design of the facility and the interactive touch screens that help visitors plan their visit. Photos of the day can be found here.
Named for the former congressman who introduced legislation to create SMMNRA in 1978, the Anthony C. Beilenson Visitor Center is jointly managed by the National Park Service, California State Parks, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority. It replaces an existing NPS visitor center located outside the park boundary in a poor visibility area.
Congressman Beilenson attended the grand opening and praised the project. "This new visitor center is exactly where it should be - where everyone involved in bringing this park into existence over all these many years had always hoped that it would be," he said.
One of the most stunning locales in the Santa Monica Mountains, 588-acre King Gillette Ranch offers a rare, unspoiled view of California's rich archaeological, cultural and historic resources. The ranch includes the 1928 mansion designed by Wallace Neff for razor magnate King C. Gillette.
Located in the original horse stables, the new visitor center was re-purposed to achieve platinum LEED certification and become the first "net zero" visitor center within the National Park Service. It produces all of its energy needs through a 94 kilowatt photovoltaic solar energy system. A website provides real-time data that tracks how much energy the photovoltaic panels generate.
The four partners jointly acquired the ranch for $35 million in 2005, with 11 separate funding sources and an almost unprecedented partnership between federal, state and local government, as well as private donors.
The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act provided $9.5 million in funding for the construction of the visitor center, in addition to financial and in-kind contributions from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.