More than 35,000 people pass through the Black Hill Visitor Center every year. In 2015, the number of people attending our programs doubled. Our 25-person auditorium has quickly fallen short of demand. As the Cabin Branch Neighborhood of 1,886 homes is built across the street, the need for additional programming space is expected to only become greater. We must act now to accommodate our growing community.
For years, the park’s old maintenance yard has sat unused, its buildings neglected. Now we have an opportunity to give this centrally-located area a new life by building a green classroom space. Most of the pavement will be removed and replaced with a wetland to manage stormwater and nature play areas. Programs will have the yard’s convenient access to hiking trails, a stream, and the greenhouse. By choosing the yard, we can also make use of the site’s flat topography and existing asphalt pad, which will greatly reduce the costs of site development.
A SEED (Sustainable Education Every Day) classroom is a sustainable, modular learning space that encourages creative education through the building’s living and technical components. For example, the SEED Classroom is net-zero water and net zero energy and will allow students to track energy production and rainwater collection. Our new classroom will provide an example of how people can learn in comfortable and beautiful spaces that are healthy for both us and the environment. The SEED Classroom will create space for a park-based nature preschool program. The nature programs will also be able to offer more school field trips and private and public events.
We are currently in the quiet phase of a capital campaign to raise $550,000 for the SEED Classroom and the renovation of the surrounding lot. Montgomery Parks has a Capital Improvement Plan in place to match these funds to complete the project. We have already received generous support from Wegmans, Friends of Ten Mile Creek, Friends of Black Hill Nature Programs, and Direct Energy. Planning and design work have started on this project.