Construction at Five Rivers: Answers to Your Questions, Plans
In general, what’s all the construction about?
At the conclusion of the construction sometime late in 2016 or early in 2017 Five Rivers will have a new Visitor Center, safer access and egress from the parking lots, improved parking areas, a new picnic area, safe bus parking, and a modern maintenance building. Some existing buildings will be removed and their functions replaced. In the case of the Visitor Center, the current center will remain in place until the new center is complete.
What’s wrong with the current visitor center?
In 1966, a temporary cafeteria on the State Office Campus was dismantled and re-erected at Five Rivers as a carpenter shop, and was later remodeled to serve as the visitor center. Although the visitor center building has served the public for more than 40 years, it has severe limitations. It was not built for long-term use, being constructed of paperboard siding and having no wall insulation. When acquired as a surplus item from the Office of General Services (OGS), it was placed on an uninsulated slab foundation and given no elevation above ground level, allowing winter meltwater to routinely run into the building from outside. Overall, the building is in poor condition.
The new visitor center will be a green, LEED certified building, constructed using the best practical techniques for environmentally friendly construction and energy efficiency. The green features of the building will be highlighted through public displays and programs, setting an example for future buildings in the region. The existing Guided School Program building and comfort station will be part of a plaza with a covered walkway that includes the new visitor center. A welcome and orientation area will be located near the main entry, giving clear directions and access to trails. The functioning of the current visitor center will be continued until the new visitor center is operating, allowing continued public use with as little disruption as possible.
Aren’t the current parking facilities sufficient?
The paved parking area near the visitor center building can accommodate about 70 vehicles, and there are times when parking is not sufficient and overflows into the other lots. Overflow parking in the space intended for buses is an issue. The surface pavement of the parking lot is old and in poor condition, showing cracks and numerous potholes. Storm water runoff from the parking areas is a problem; erosion along the Beaver Tree Trail, for example, is caused by storm water runoff from the existing parking areas.
The current paved areas, which include the main parking lot, two sub-lot areas, a small bus turnaround and parking, and the paved areas surrounding the maintenance buildings are undesirable mainly for reasons of pedestrian safety and the appearance of parking lot sprawl. The current entrance to the main visitor parking lot is on a curve with limited visibility, unsafe for both pedestrians and cars.
The parking areas and their access roads will be modified for improved safety, efficient use of space, reduced visual impact, reduced light pollution, increased shading, increased capacity, and will be engineered for effective management of storm water runoff. The current unsafe visitor lot entry will be moved to an area where part of the Woodlot Trail is now, and the existing entry closed off and planted as lawn, allowing for emergency access if needed. There is presently parking for about 110 cars; parking spaces will increase to approximately 140. Portions of the hard surfaces will be restored to green spaces using “green paving” techniques, allowing these areas to accommodate overflow parking situations.
Why is separate bus parking needed?
The bus entry and parking areas will be separated from the main vehicle parking area to improve safety. The current bus parking area is a small area located near the comfort station/Guided School Program building. It is designed in a circular form, so that a bus can pull in and stop to let off passengers, then continue straight ahead to leave (not to park and back out later). Backing up a bus can pose serious safety hazards, and many school districts forbid their bus drivers to back up unless there is an adult spotter behind the bus. The Center draws an average of 9,000 school students each year for guided and self-guided field trips, generally during weekday mornings. The current small bus parking area is used as an informal overflow parking area for cars since the lots adjoin each other, and sometimes cars unwittingly use the bus area when it’s needed for buses.
What happens to the picnic area?
The picnic area will be relocated for convenient access from the public parking areas. The current Nature’s Backyard Trail and Wildlife Garden will be easily accessed from the picnic area, making it inviting for visitors to enjoy a walk on that path.
Will the Bear Pen and the other historical buildings be preserved?
The Goose Lodge will continue to function as a location for Maples demonstrations and open houses. Although the Goose Lodge and the nearby operations building do not appear in the few earliest photos of the Civilian Conservation Corps Camp, they are shown in film footage taken in 1936, and are identified on a 1937 site map as the CCC buildings. In spring 2005, Historic Preservation Officers from NYS DEC and OPRHP thoroughly inspected these structures. Based on their deteriorating condition and on the fact that they have been significantly altered from their original state, the Preservation Officers determined the structures not to be historically significant and to be beyond historic reclamation. The operations building is in very poor condition and does not well serve its purpose in practical terms and will be removed. The Goose Lodge will be used in the future for maple sugaring demonstrations and other purposes.
Constructed in the early 1950s to exhibit live black bears at the “Delmar Zoo”, the Bear Pen building contained a small unheated classroom and a covered picnic area that was open on three sides. These functions will be replaced by new structures, and the space it occupied is needed for improved and safer parking and pedestrian access.