June 5, 2008
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park will celebrate its tenth anniversary in the summer of 2008 with the opening of a new building and a new permanent exhibit. The Forest Center, a classroom and meeting space, is constructed almost entirely with wood harvested from the park’s Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified Mount Tom forest. The Forest Center is being considered for a Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, one of the highest ratings of any building in the national park system and the State of Vermont.
The $1.4 million dollar project was funded and implemented through a public/private partnership between the National Park Service and the Woodstock Foundation. Reflecting on ten years of collaborative ventures with the park, Woodstock Foundation President David Donath said, “We are pleased to join with the park in creating this wonderful space that encourages reflection, dialogue, and lifelong learning around forward-thinking stewardship.”
The building was designed by Steve Smith of Smith, Alvarez, Sienkiewycz, of Burlington, Vermont. H.P. Cummings of Woodville, New Hampshire was the project manager. Harvesting of the wood for the building was coordinated by Redstart Forestry of Corinth, Vermont and conducted by Long View Forest Contracting of Charlestown, New Hampshire. In addition, many local businesses were involved, including nearby wood kilns and mills.
According to Park Superintendent Rolf Diamant, “The Forest Center represents a marriage of sustainability and craftsmanship. It is a reminder of the fertile relationship between art, environment, and technology, when thoughtful building practices and innovations are enriched by human-scale design and hand-built quality.”
The Forest Center is also the first National Park Service structure to be built entirely with certified wood. All framing and interior wood used in the Forest Center, including white pine, ash, black cherry, hemlock and red oak, came from the park’s forest, the oldest professionally managed woodland in North America. In 2005 Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical
Park was awarded Forest Stewardship Council certification, the only national park or forest to receive such a designation. FSC certification encourages the highest standards of woodland management through credible, independent evaluation and verification of exemplary forestry practices. In constructing the Forest Center every effort was made to work with local trades and businesses, including a nearby wood kiln and mill.
The Forest Center is largely self-sufficient in terms of energy consumption. A high-efficiency wood-fired boiler, using firewood cut from the park’s forest, is the primary heat source. The building’s roof-mounted solar photovoltaic panels generate power for the building, and any excess electricity is sold back to the grid, in effect “reversing the meter.” When outside power is needed to augment the solar array, it is purchased through Central Vermont Public Service’s Cow Power Ô program, which generates power from methane recapture on Vermont farms.
The Forest Center is located near the former site of a 19th century sawmill, adjacent to the 1876 Wood Barn. As part of the project the Wood Barn received needed repair and stabilization work, including a new foundation, roof and fire suppression. The lower level of the Wood Barn will be used to store cordwood cut from the forest as it was in earlier times. On the Wood Barn’s Upper Level, a new permanent exhibit, The Mount Tom Forest: A Legacy of Stewardship, will open this summer. The exhibit tells the story of sustainable forestry and will help orient visitors to Mount Tom’s network of carriage roads and trails. For the first time since the opening of the park in 1998, the historic carriages and sleds that traversed the park’s carriage roads will be on public display.
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is named in honor of three families responsible for the recovery and careful stewardship of this land. George Perkins Marsh, the author of Man and Nature (1864), was a major influence on the formation of the modern environmental movement. Frederick Billings and his family put Marsh’s philosophy into practice with a farsighted program of progressive farming and forestry. Frederick Billings’ granddaughter Mary and her husband Laurance S. Rockefeller inherited the property in the mid-twentieth century, sustaining and enriching it through their own conservation projects. They donated the property to the National Park Service in 1992, and the park opened in 1998 with a legislative mandate to maintain and build upon the 140-year-old legacy of stewardship.
The Woodstock Foundation promotes conservation, sustainable land use, and heritage as values that are essential to culture, community, and the human spirit. The Foundation is the operating partner of Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park and holds and manages an ongoing fund for the preservation and conservation of park resources.