After suffering severe damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, the state Department of Environmental Protection has officially reopened the Liberty State Park Nature Interpretive Center.
“The long-awaited reopening of the nature center in Liberty State Park is a symbol of both New Jersey’s resilience and our commitment to protecting our natural resources,” said New Jersey DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette. “As we resume educational programs inside, the center itself stands as a reminder that we must take care to protect our infrastructure and natural resources from the ever-increasing impacts of climate change, including increased storm severity and sea-level rise.”
The center, designed by renowned architect Michael Graves, opened in 1985, but it has been closed for the past nine years since the 2012 super storm’s flood waters damaged the structure, exhibits, and caused mold.
According to then-Deputy Superintendent Jon Luk, roughly two feet of storm water flooded the building.
“It damaged the building almost to a point where we weren’t sure really if it could be salvaged,” he said. “All the exhibits, all the finishes were damaged from the storm. The mechanical, electrical equipment all needed to be replaced. We had fish. Saltwater fish …literally scattered by the dozens right on this concrete patio.”
Longtime visitors to the center will notice changes to the building, including a vestibule and welcome lobby that was once part of the building’s exterior and is now enclosed, new environmentally friendly water bottle filling stations, a giant mural of a map of the Hudson River Estuary, and a completely renovated interior with weather-resistant materials.
Located at 275 Freedom Way in Liberty State Park, the center features environmental and natural history exhibits that focus on the Hudson River Estuary and the surrounding environment.
They are broken down into educational themes like the Salt Marsh Discovery Room with its saltwater aquarium and interactive tide exhibits, Home for Wildlife with its lifelike estuary diorama, a multimedia auditorium, and a high-tech digital periscope that provides views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and great blue heron feeding.
The center also features a night theater, a nature discovery center with hands-on activities, a freshwater pond and meadow interactive mural, a freshwater aquarium, and more.
Schools, organized groups, and the general public can participate in educational and nature interpretive programs at the center, which also offers professional development workshops for formal and non-formal educators.
“We are thrilled to reopen the Nature Interpretive Center to the public and look forward to helping visitors of all ages learn about the diversity of animals, plants, and habitats within Liberty State Park,” said Parks and Forestry Director John Cecil. “Liberty State Park and its many amenities offer something for everyone. The updated Nature Interpretive Center uses state-of-the-art equipment to connect everyone to the environment and helps us all learn about the vital services provided by nature.”
The 1,200-acre Liberty State Park attracts an estimated 5.1 million visitors per year and offers expansive views of the Hudson River.
The park features a two-mile waterfront walkway known as Liberty Walk, the 9/11 Memorial and Grove of Remembrance, the Liberty Landing Marina, the Green Park playground, nature trails, wildlife habitats, and other recreational features.