Carlsbad Caverns Awarded Certification in Sustainable Design Initiative

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Date: August 14, 2013
Contact: Jennifer Evans, (575) 785-3090

CARLSBAD–  Carlsbad Caverns National Park is one of four pilot projects newly certified by the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), a comprehensive rating system for sustainable design, construction, and maintenance of built landscapes. The 2010 Bat Cave Draw Rehabilitation project, which replaced a parking lot near the entrance to Carlsbad Cavern with native vegetation, received a two-star rating by SITES.

The Bat Cave Draw Rehabilitation project was part of a group of 150 projects participating in an extensive,two-year SITES pilot program. SITES is a partnership of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center of The University of Texas at Austin, and the United States Botanic Garden. SITES was created in 2005 to fill a critical need for guidelines and recognition of sustainable landscapes based on their planning, design, construction, and maintenance.

The Bat Cave Draw Rehabilitation project was initiated after researchers detected small amounts of contaminants from parking lot runoff in some cavern pools. The contaminants, including motor oil and antifreeze, were in part from a main visitor center parking lot, which was previously in Bat Cave Draw. The project involved planning with a multi-disciplinary team over many years to replace most of the Bat Cave Draw parking lot with terraced beds of native plants, mitigate contaminants in other parking areas, and re-configure the entrance to the visitor center. A small parking lot still exists in Bat Cave Draw for visitors with wheelchairs to access the Bat Flight Amphitheater.

The results of the project were reduced paving over the cavern, cleaner stormwater runoff entering the cavern, and increased habitat for wildlife. The park used native plants to revegetate most of the former parking lot and visitor center areas, with all plants grown from locally-genetic stock. The project also made use of salvaged materials and plants, relied on regional materials, and maintained the integrity of existing historic stone walls, which were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

Superintendent John Benjamin said of the project, "We're pleased that we could participate in the SITES pilot program for sustainable landscapes. Sustainability speaks to the heart of our Mission Statement and makes sense in so many ways. Bat Cave Draw offers visitors a beautiful approach to the natural entrance of the cavern. Its native plants mimic the surrounding environment and slow runoff during storms. And locally grown plants and local materials have the added benefit of being less costly."

For more information about the Bat Cave Draw Rehabilitation project and the SITES certification, visit

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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