Thursday, September 17, 2015

Refuge Office/Visitor Center Turns 4 This Month

Ribbon-cutting at Grand Opening
Four years ago this month, actually on September 8, 2011, the Refuge Office and Visitor Center at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge held its grand opening.  And how grand it has been since!

Visitors at Grand Opening
In late March 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Refuge Staff and the Friends were excited to learn that the new Visitor Center had been awarded Silver  Certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.  More than 20 different design aspects helped reach this level. 

Building under construction
LEED highlights for the facility include super thick insulation sprayed inside all walls and on ceilings, solar panels that produce about 1/3 of the power required to operate the building with a high-efficiency HVAC system.  Windows contain energy efficient glass that does not allow heat penetration, and  windows in the observation area are tilted to reduce bird strikes.  Motion sensors on all lights  turn them off when the room is unoccupied, and energy star appliances have been installed in the breakroom.  Other features include the use of low-odor paints and other chemicals used throughout the building, carpets made from 65% recycled content, and recycling of all construction debris and unused materials.  Light colored exterior materials and roof metal  reflect light rather than absorb it, and the building is situated  in an east/west fashion to maximize natural sunlight.   
Transportation/energy costs were reduced by use of locally available materials, for the most part, including Texas limestone for much of the construction.  
There are five “green” plaques in the Visitor Center that describe other LEED features.  Be sure to look for them the next time you visit!
In the new venue, the Friends of Hagerman NWR has sponsored  Second Saturday programs, two Super Saturdays, and Youth First, the expanded program for youngsters.

Additional programs offered have included a screening of the Aldo Leopold story, Green Fire, History Day at Hagerman,  a Bow Hunting Seminar, and  Wild Wednesday story hours in 2012; 3-day BirdFest Texoma in 2013; a Fun Friday on January, a writers' workshop, a birding workshop, a photography workshop, Snakes at Hagerman NWR, and FAQ's for Workampers in 2014. Spring Family Fun activities have held throughout the week of  spring break, starting in 2013.

All aboard the Carlos & Eulalia Cardinal Express!
The Visitor Center also serves as a departure point for tram tours and guided walks throughout the year, as well as the "front door" for the annual High on the Hawg Friend-and-Fund Raiser. 
Gathering in Visitor Center for bird walk

School groups, clubs and other groups, including the Bluestem Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists, have enjoyed tours and presentations in the Visitor Center as well as out on the Refuge.

Officer Kevin with school children.

In 2014,  the Nature Nook hours were expanded from the original 10 - 3 on weekdays, to 9 – 4 Monday through Saturday and 1- 5 on Sunday, with a dedicated group of volunteers to provide information to visitors and make sales in the book and gift shop daily,  except on federal holidays.

 The new Butterfly Garden has augmented the landscape adjacent to the building and serves as a "model" for native pollinator plants typical of the Refuge surrounding area.

The saying, “If you build it they will come” has held true at Hagerman – the total number of persons checking in at the previous Visitor Center for all of 2010 was 7,065, compared to 14,514, for 2014. Visitors from outside the local area are pleasantly surprised to find such a beautiful facility, and many local visitors have stated, “I have been to the Refuge before but I never came to the Visitor Center – this is great!”

So Happy 4th Birthday to the Refuge Office/Visitor Center!

Visitor Center, 2011, by Ken Day
Grand Opening photos by Skip and Melinda Hill.
Information on green building features provided by Kathy Whaley.
Garden photo by Donna Rogers.

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