Penn State’s Nature Center To Undergo $4 Million Makeover
Penn State’s 7,000-acre nature center Shaver’s Creek will undergo its first major renovation since opening nearly a century ago. Renovations start on September 5, and the center will be closed for much of 2017. The project’s $4 million price tag includes $3 million from Penn State Outreach and Online Education and $1 million in donations. Construction will start early next year on an expanded 100-person indoor classroom and central office space.
“We’re in the pre-construction phase now, so we’ve moved a bunch of our equipment and office buildings off site. We’ve cleared trees and we’re getting ready for a septic system replacement,” Assistant Marketing Coordinator Justin Raymond said.
Staff is hopeful the Center will be ready for visitors in time next year’s fall festival, but Shaver’s Creek won’t have a fall festival this year. Stone Valley trails will remain open throughout the renovation.
Construction on Shaver’s Creek will also utilize local wood harvested from the Stone Valley Forest after it was destroyed by invasive Emerald Ash Borers.
“They’re destroying our White Ash trees. They’re going to be devastated and all gone eventually,” Shaver’s Creek Director Mark McLaughlin said. “Wouldn’t it be cool then, within our building, if some of our wood is [White Ash]. It’d be similar to the Elm trees on campus or the generation before us with the American Chestnut.”
By using White Ash trees affected by the Emerald Ash Borers in construction, staff hopes to create a teachable moment for students and visitors alike. The Ash Borers couldn’t have come at a more perfect timing, Raymond said, as the construction will require a decent amount of wood. These trees would need to be cut down anyway because of the Ash Borer
Beginning as a division of the forestry school in the 1930s offering hands-on instruction to aspiring naturalists and lumberjacks, Shaver’s Creek was transformed into Penn State’s public nature center in the 70s.
“One of our goals is to get rid of all these shed buildings and unify the look so you can appreciate the old 1938 wood and stone building. This building wasn’t designed for four-season use. It was designed for three-season use and here we are in it all year round with tens of thousands of students. Way more than they ever thought,” McLaughlin said. “One way to look at it is this outdoor education place needs indoor space. Right now, if a group of 30 or 40 people wanted to go inside, we couldn’t.”
Patrons to the Center have grown drastically since the 70s, and these renovations will help the staff continue to educate the next generation of conservationists.
“Our mission here is bringing people together with people and those people together with nature. Hopefully this will help facilitate it even more,” Raymond said.
Shaver’s Creek will continue to offer courses for Penn State students at the University Park Campus throughout renovations.