Auburn, NY

Visitor Center

Sterling Nature Center, a 1,400 acre county park and nature preserve located on the shores of Lake Ontario, identified a need to replace the existing Jensvold House, which currently serves as an interpretive center, with a modern, state-of-the-art building. Welcoming more than 35,000 visitors each year, the Nature Center provides a diverse program to visitors including seasonal events, curation, a blue heron rookery, and nine miles of trails. Limited space and constant repairs have resulted in the Jensvold House from reaching its full potential. Working with a Design Committee from Sterling Nature Center, the Friends of Sterling Nature, and Cayuga County, Beardsley developed a conceptual design to help meet the Nature Center’s goals of expanding programming and providing a better experience for visitors. Following the conceptual design phase, Beardsley provided architecture and engineering services for the design of the new building.

During the conceptual design phase, it was determined that the existing building should not be utilized for the new visitor center and a new building should be constructed instead. The existing building may eventually be repurposed as a gathering pavilion or outdoor education space. Spaces within the new building include a large multi-purpose classroom and smaller multi-purpose room, exhibit space, an office for park staff, restrooms, storage, and small kitchenette. The selected location makes the building a focal point on the landscape, provides the best option for accessibility and proximity to parking, and takes advantage of views to the west and east of the building. The barn-like architectural design speaks to the community’s rich farming history and allows the new building to blend with the surrounding landscape.

Site improvements were designed to be phased over time based on available funding. Features include outdoor classroom and exhibit space, a nature playground, outdoor meditation space, upgrades to the existing parking area, bioretention areas and rain gardens to protect the Lake and Pond from contaminants, an upgraded pavilion for outdoor events, bird watching areas, and connection to the existing trail system. Trail improvements include relocation and expansion of existing hiking/walking trails in response to coastal erosion impacts, accessibility upgrades, and proximity to viewing opportunities. Additional improvements include upgrades to an existing emergency/service vehicle access roadway that has been heavily damaged due to erosion and storm washout.

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