Earth Day Marks Nature Center Groundbreaking

PEEC Board President Terry Foxx and Los Alamos County Council Chair Geoff Rodger welcome the crowd to Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the new Nature Center on Canyon Road. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

U.S Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, left, with Council Chair Geoff Rodgers congratulates the collaboration of the County and PEEC to bring the 14 year dream of the Nature Center to reality. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Los Alamos Daily Post
Community members, PEEC staff and board members, local, state and national officials and representatives from Klinger Constructors, Muellen Heller Architecture and Catalyst Architecture gathered Tuesday afternoon for the Los Alamos County Nature Center groundbreaking ceremony on Canyon Road.
The dream of a nature center in Los Alamos is 14 years in the making and celebrating the groundbreaking on Earth Day could not have been more appropriate.

“In 2010, the Pajarito Environmental Education Center – better known as PEEC – submitted a Capital Improvement Project request asking the community and the Council if they would support construction of a new Nature Center,” Council Chair Geoff Rodgers said. This project had one of the highest levels of public support that we saw for any of the CIP projects submitted that year, and its popularity and the enthusiasm of PEEC members and others in the public has only grown in the last four years as it moved through the CIP process and contract award. In 2012, the Council approved the $4.3 million budget needed to complete the design and construct the building.

With more than 12 years of success already, PEEC has clearly out grown it current home on Orange Street, he said adding that PEEC made a commitment to the community to leverage public funding with private funding and private effort to ensure the continued success and growth of this project. In addition to all of the volunteer effort, PEEC has raised more than $800,000 to furnish and outfit the new building.

“This is just one more example of a recent trend in our community; having a vigorous debate, making a decision, and seeing it through,” Rodgers said. “We truly have become a community that takes full responsibility for its own future. I look forward to the new Nature Center taking its place alongside the pond, Fuller Lodge, the Bradbury, Bandelier and hopefully the Manhattan Project National Historic Park and our mountain setting in making Los Alamos not only a great place to visit, but a great place to live as well.

Rodger told the crowd that a love of nature is universal, ageless and timeless. He said that he looks forward to the day about a year from now when the community will “cut the ribbon” and say the project was on time and on budget and offer everyone a tour of this great new facility.

PEEC Board President Terry Foxx shared some insights into what’s to come.

“This is an exciting event for Los Alamos on this Earth Day and represents years of work by many people, community members, County Council, County Administrators, PEEC staff and volunteers,” Foxx said. “The journey began 14 years ago, when a few people came together to form what became known as the Pajarito Environmental Education Center, dedicated to helping the citizens of Los Alamos learn about and fall in love with the beautiful environment around them.

“Over the years PEEC has provided activities and educational programs for both children and adults to enhance our understanding of the place we live. Today, our mission is ‘Enriching people’s lives by strengthening their connections to our canyons, mesas, mountains, and skies.’ Our core values are nature, education, and community. We believe Los Alamos is a place where people enjoy, value, and care for nature.”

Foxx spoke about the Nature Center’s future. The building belongs to the community of Los Alamos and PEEC will operate the building, she said. As part of PEECs dedication to the community, a public/private partnership has emerged. The County is providing the funds to construct the building and PEEC is providing funds for the exhibits, both inside and out.

“We have been in the process of a Capital Campaign to provide $1 million for the exhibits,” Foxx said. “Our logo for the Capital Campaign has been a dragonfly because the children of Los Alamos saw the building design and declared it looked like a dragonfly. Our dream is that when you walk into this building you will learn something about our canyons, mesas, mountains, and skies from the exhibits or at program. Our favorite animals like native fish, Foxxy the Hognosed snake, and other animals will spark your interest and dispel fear.

“With your children, grandchildren, or friends in hand you will find the Children’s discovery room a place to learn and play. You will walk into the observation room and see birds and other animals feed and using a water feature outside. Through the window, Pajarito Mountain will be seen towering above the mesa. You will be able to look into the canyon and see the geology and plant life. This observation room will be a place of quiet surveillance or of studying from the nature library. Though you might not see them, you may hear the cheerful voices of adults or children in our classroom. You will walk into the Planetarium and sit and wonder at the beauty of the night sky shown on the dome. 

“But most of all we hope that what you learn inside will spark your interest to go outside—to look at the gardens, take a hike along trails of Los Alamos, sit and watch the skies. We hope your curiosity will be sparked and your love of the place you live will be enhanced.”

The new building is a community resource and Foxx said they envision it being available for other community activities. She said the hope is that this unique building will bring visitors to Los Alamos and enhance the local business community.

In closing, Foxx thanked the citizens of Los Alamos, County Council and County representatives who have worked so hard to make this building a reality, she said. She especially thanked PEEC Executive Director Katie Watson, Paul Arendt who has spent hours with building plans, Chick Keller who carried the vision of the Nature Center to the Council, the many citizen who supported the proposals and the PEEC Board of Directors and volunteers who have spent many dedicated hours working toward the dream.

“And also thanks goes to our wonderful County contacts, Steve Huebner, Ann Laurent, Libby Carlson, and many others,” Foxx said.

Foxx said one of her two favorite images of the afternoon was hearing a child whose mom works at PEEC tell another child standing near the image of the new Nature Center what was going to be in the building and what they could do there. The other image is of the Barranca and Aspen Elementary School choirs singing, “The Garden Song” by John Denver.  

Garden Song Lyrics

Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow.
All it takes is a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground.
Inch by inch, row by row, Someone bless the seeds I sow.
Someone warm them from below, ’til the rain comes tumbling down.

“That is the way this project has happened over the years. Inch by inch and row by row,” Foxx said. “Founder’s visions, volunteers working hard, creative staff, wonderful County visionaries, community support. Year by year, project by project, program by program, drawing by drawing, Earth Day by Earth Day this building has become a reality! It was a glorious day, a glorious Earth Day.

Current and past County Councilors and other officials turn the dirt to kick off construction of the new Nature Center. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Barranca Mesa and Aspen Elementary School choirs sing ‘The Garden Song’ by John Denver at the groundbreaking ceremony. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Cars line up and down Canyon Road for Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the new Nature Center. Photo by Carol A. Clark/


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