July 17, 2008 (RALEIGH, NC) – The City of Raleigh’s Parks & Recreation Department officially broke ground this week on the Walnut Creek Urban Wetland Educational Park, located in central Wake County, south of the downtown district.
The center will transform 49 acres of abused, polluted wetlands into a living, natural resource for the City of Raleigh. The park’s mission is to promote understanding of and protection for an urban wetland, enhance community pride, and encourage economic development. It will provide an accessible “quiet zone” for communing with nature while preserving the natural beauty of the wetland and protecting the habitat of numerous species.
Phase one of the project calls for a thoroughly “green” 7000-square-foot Environmental Education Center, designed by Frank Harmon, FAIA, of Frank Harmon Architect PA (www.frankharmon.com) in Raleigh with landscape architect Robin C. Moore and education specialist Nilda Cosco of The Natural Learning Initiative (www.naturallearning.org). It will house a bookshop, conference room, small library, and a kitchen, as well as classrooms and a laboratory.
“Children and adults will learn about wetlands within a wetland,” Harmon noted.
The center will also be connected to extensive trails and outdoor activities.
“Since the overall goal of Walnut Creek Urban Wetlands Educational Park is to conserve and protect a natural wetland, the architectural element will embrace the same mission,” Harmon explained.
As a result, he has designed the Education Center to rest lightly upon the land, echoing and embracing the indigenous materials surrounding it. The structure will be poised six feet above the wetlands flood plain so that its footprint is minimal. The all-wood construction, which will utilize recycled materials wherever possible, will blend seamlessly into the landscape while an abundance of windows will welcome the surroundings into the building.
The windows will also facilitate natural ventilation and illumination for the interior. And all circulation will take place on the exterior of the building across generous porches that project out into the environment. The building’s metal roof, with deep overhangs, will protect the interior from the harsh summer sun.
A geothermal system will provide heating and cooling needs and photovoltaic panels will generate much of the Center’s electricity. Rainwater runoff from the angled roof will be collected in cisterns for use in the Center. A system will also be in place to filter storm water runoff before it returns to Walnut Creek.
The Walnut Creek Urban Wetland Center is part of the Raleigh Parks & Recreation Department. It is the cornerstone of Walnut Creek 2000, an action program developed by Partners for Environmental Justice. It was initiated by a broad base of Wake County citizens.
For detailed information on the entire plan, see http://www.naturalearning.org/docs/WalnutCreek.pdf.