By Ranger Steve Mueller
Natural ambiance & disperse parking
Entering natural areas should provide an ambiance for immersion in nature and things wild. From the moment one enters Howard Christensen Nature Center (HCNC), the design maintains a natural experience. The entrance off Red Pine Drive to the Welcome Center leads through the woods to dispersed parking.
Dispersed parking means a large parking area does not exist. Instead many small parking pads hold a few vehicles in several areas along the drive. A large area is mowed and kept open for times when more parking is infrequently needed.
By having dispersed parking, the area appears natural instead of having a large area sterile of life. The small parking pads allow water to filter into soil instead of running off pavement that would increase flooding during spring and wet periods.
Even with 40 vehicles, the area maintains its natural ambiance. A map on the wall at the Welcome Center allows visitors to orient to trails and shows how to reach the Red Pine Interpretive Center through woods. The walk leads passed Tadpole Pond. The design invites people to experience nature niche ambiance instead of being exposed to a human constructed building environment immediately.
The Design With Nature concept keeps HCNC’s focus on nature and the natural world. When one walks the path to the interpretive building, an ambiance of wild beauty entices ones spirit.
Not everyone is able to walk a few hundred feet. A handicap access drive north of the Welcome Center entrance allows people to access the building directly. This also allows for deliveries and staff parking.
We purchased an old farm field and old home north of the interpretive building. It allowed driving access through the north field on a two track to a team building initiatives course in the woods. We needed quick medical access and needed to use the two track for transporting activity materials. The home was removed with intent of using the open yard as a parking area. The fairly close proximity to the interpretive center would not destroy the natural ambiance surrounding the interpretive building.
Development focused on Design With Nature. When we constructed the Research Field Station facility off 20 Mile Road in 2002, we kept the parking a couple hundred feet from the building to maintain a sense of wildness and natural ambiance for people as they approached the building. The handicap access and delivery drive meandered through the woods avoiding a straight through view that would degrade the natural appearance.
Your yard can be designed with nature. We have been working with that goal at our Ody Brook home for 35 years. Recently a visitor told me a visit to Ody Brook is like going to a national park. That was a nice compliment indicating successful design with nature. A few acres can be a wonderful natural haven for wildlife, plants, and people. Even a small city lot can be designed with nature for a natural ambiance. Try it.
Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at firstname.lastname@example.org Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.