Denali National Park and Preserve's New Eielson Visitor Center, LEEDing the Way
Contact: Kris Fister, 907-683-9583
Contact: Maureen McLaughlin, 907-733-9103
After three years of planning and design by a team of architects, engineers, and Denali National Park staff, and three more years of construction, the new Eielson Visitor Center opened to the public on Sunday, June 8, 2008. Despite heavy snow, unseasonably cold weather, and construction delays, staff and contractors alike made enormous efforts to insure that the visitor center opened this spring as scheduled.
Located on the Denali Park Road, 66 miles from the park entrance and in the heart of Denali National Park and Preserve’s six million acres of protected wilderness, Eielson Visitor Center commands a panoramic view of the Alaska Range featuring Mount McKinley, North America's highest peak. Most visitors spend four hours traveling to the Eielson Visitor Center each way by bus, giving them a first-hand experience with Denali's wilderness. With over 7,400 square feet of space, the new visitor center features large indoor and outdoor viewing areas, an indoor dining area, space for indoor ranger presentations, and stunning exhibits, which include an interactive topographical model of Mount McKinley that is twelve feet in diameter, an art exhibit featuring works done by participants in Denali’s Artist-In-Residence program, and an exquisite, hand-crafted fabric art piece by local Denali artist Ree Nancarrow. The total cost of the building and its exhibits was $9.2 million.
Throughout the design and construction period, park managers made sustainability a primary goal, striving for the highest standards under the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System. The National Park Service anticipates achieving a Platinum Certification, the highest LEED rating possible, which will be the first in the National Park Service. The Denali Visitor Center located in the park’s entrance area earned a LEED Silver Certification in 2005.
Design elements of the Eielson Visitor Center contributing to a Platinum LEED rating include: a low-profile, earth-bermed building that blends into the landscape; transplanting tundra mats salvaged during construction to camouflage the roof deck; using renewable energy sources such as solar panels, hydroelectric power, and natural light; selecting energy-efficient heating, ventilation and plumbing systems; recycling portions of the original visitor center for the building, and carefully selecting materials that are recycled and locally produced. The use of alternative energy sources is particularly significant, as due to its location off the power grid, the visitor center must use on-site power sources.
The Eielson Visitor Center will be formally dedicated during a ceremony taking place on August 12, 2008. The visitor center is open through September 15, 2008.
Did You Know?
Warmer temperatures have led to dramatic thawing of permafrost. Thaw releases carbon, as once-frozen materials decompose, but allows increased plant growth. Researchers in Denali are studying whether thawing permafrost will increase or decrease world-wide carbon emissions.