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Nature Center Adds Parking Lot While Trying to Stay Green

by on November 09, 2014 7:55 AM

Sometimes you have no choice but to pave paradise and put up a parking lot.

Milbrook Marsh Nature Center, located on Puddintown Road, has been awarded a $175,000 grant to install a new parking area at its facilities.

The grant, which has been in the works for 10 years, is being split by the state and a collection of private donors. The goal is to give visitors someplace to park other than the grass -- the only current option.

“It’s an idea that’s been bouncing around for a while,” recreational supervisor Molly Hetrick says. “We’ve always had a need for a parking lot. We’ve always just used a field and with all the visitors it can get pretty muddy.”

While putting a paved surface at a center dedicated to the environment sounds like a conflict of interest, it was something that Milbrook simply needed to do. 

Over 13,000 people visit the center each year for numerous activities that include kids programs, yoga classes, bird watching and hiking. The lack of actual parking spaces was becoming a detriment for the center and those stopping by. 

Between the amount of mud being created and cars frequently getting stuck, there has been no shortage of parking problems.

“I was half expecting the place to go up in flames one day,” director of Centre County Parks and Recreation Ron Woodhead says. “When you’ve got cars getting stuck in the mud and people tripping over themselves, you’ve got to do something." 

While the center is trying to make itself more accessible to customers, it is also doing everything it can to stay as environmentally friendly as possible.

Instead of normal pavement, the parking lot will feature a crushed stone surface that will be surrounded by a series of rain gardens to help prevent storm water runoff and extra pollution.

The rain garden and lot surface function together by letting water from rainstorms absorb into the soil instead of being sent down a storm drain which increases the chances of water pollution. 

While this type of lot isn’t unique, it is still the best way to create parking without causing too much detriment to the environment.

“To an extent it’s still a parking lot,” Woodhead says. “You try to think of the best way [of parking] to help with storm water runoff and how to handle the areas it can infiltrate. The general idea is that the gardens will be beds to hold the water. Let’s call it the lesser of two evils.”

The plan is to begin construction in the spring and have it completed by next fall. Once finished, the new parking lot will have space for 83 vehicles.

“I hope that people will be pleased to see it and that it will have a good first impression,” Hetrick says. “It should give people a nicer experience, especially with all the preschool programs we have. It should be a lot easier to use.”

Matt Allibone is a intern. He's a Penn State senior, studying print journalism. Matt is a native of Delran, N.J.
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