National Park System Gains 1st Net Zero Visitors Center

The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) gained its first net zero visitors center this summer in the Anthony C. Beilenson Visitor Center at the King Gillette Ranch in California, located in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA). The first of its kind in the nearly 400 parks that make up the NPS system, the center has garnered LEED Platinum for its green building design.

Named for the congressman who introduced legislation to create this National Recreation Area in 1978, the Anthony C. Beilenson Visitor Center replaces an existing NPS visitor center located outside the park boundary in a poor visibility area. The new visitors center relies on a 94-kilowatt-capacity solar photovoltaic solar system for its electricity, and makes use of LED lighting to keep its electricity needs to a minimum. It encompasses 7,000 square feet, and was funded via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which mandated that all building materials used in in the project were made in the USA.


Net Zero visitors center

image via NPS

This visitors center heralds the opening of new parklands for the SMMNRA, as the 588-acre King Gillette Ranch was acquired jointly in 2005 by the NPS, California State Parks, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC) and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA), who will jointly manage its administration. The agencies pulled together $35 million through 11 separate funding sources, an effort representing an almost unprecedented partnership between federal, state and local government, as well as private donors. The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act kicked in $9.5 million in funding for the construction of the visitor center, in addition to financial and in-kind contributions from MRCA and SMMC. The MRCA manages the surrounding park, which includes hiking trails, beautiful grassy picnic areas, a pond and dormitory facilities for MRCA’s overnight educational camps.

The King Gillette Ranch is located at the intersection of five major tributaries and includes the 1928 mansion designed by Wallace Neff for razor magnate King C. Gillette (the visitor center itself was once the ranch’s horse stables). Now repurposed with stringent energy efficiency measures, the Beilenson Center opened in May, with a variety of state and local officials onhand.

“The opening of the visitor’s center fulfills a 30-year effort by public agencies, elected officials, conservationists and community members to provide an educational and recreational gateway for millions of visitors,” said Joseph T. Edmiston, Executive Director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, in a statement. “We want to attract those who have yet to experience the astounding beauty of the Santa Monica Mountains.”

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.

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