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Naturally Impactful: New Wyandot Lodge Constructed to Have Minimal Impact on Environment

Jesse Bethea Jesse Bethea Naturally Impactful: New Wyandot Lodge Constructed to Have Minimal Impact on EnvironmentPhotos by Jesse Bethea.
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The newly completed Wyandot Lodge at the McKnight Nature Center is poised to be the central hub of Columbus Recreation and Parks’ Outdoor Education Program. The lodge will be a new home for programs aimed at teaching local youth about human impacts on nature. But in the case of the Wyandot Lodge, the building itself is an educational tool.

Drawing energy from solar panels and from geothermal wells, the lodge was constructed for minimal impact on climate and ecosystem. The floors are concrete to eliminate the need for corrosive carpet cleaners. In the summer, the skylights can open and allow air to cycle through and cool the interior without air conditioning. Lights inside the lodge are motion activated and turn off automatically when a room is unoccupied.

“Even just in the construction of the physical building,” said Dan Conroy, Nature Programs Administrative Manager for Columbus Recreation and Parks. “It’s not just how things are built but what they’re built with.”

Built with locally-sourced stone and wood, the lodge’s construction began in August of 2016 and the building opened earlier this Fall. The Ohio Parks and Recreation Association awarded the Wyandot Lodge first place for 2017 Capital Improvement Projects priced at $2.5 million or more.

Recreation and Parks originally intended to renovate another building on the same property, but ultimately that plan proved more expensive than constructing a new lodge. The building will now serve as an educational space for hundreds of kids who will visit for summer camps and field trips throughout the year. In addition to teaching them about how responsible construction can offset harm to the environment, the lodge also features some of the creatures and natural resources threatened by human activity. Snakes and turtles occupy terrariums lining the main hall and tables in the back hold fossil specimens pulled from the Scioto River. Conroy hopes some amphibians can soon be added to the collection.

“We’ve been really reptile-heavy,” said Conroy.

With the building in place, the next step is deciding how best to use it.

“Right now we’re really just focusing on just developing solid programming that we can run out of here and in partnership with the community centers around the city,” said Conroy.

Outdoor Education is an outreach arm of Columbus Recreation and Parks promoting public appreciation for nature. In addition to summer camps and other educational programing, Outdoor Education offers activities like canoeing, archery and a mobile climbing wall that can be brought to events and various community centers in the Recreation and Parks system.

According to Conroy, partnering with the community centers is essential to bringing Outdoor Education to everyone in Columbus.

“We want to be an asset to everyone in the city and that includes stopping at community centers and having the community centers come out and visit us too,” said Conroy.
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Naturally Impactful is brought to you by the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, which works to enrich and change the lives of our citizens. The column is an effort to share the story of how the pillars of Health and Wellness, Conservation and Social Equity drive the work we do. Each month the column will focus on different sections of the department using these pillars to create a positive impact on our residents’ and visitors’ quality of life along with providing basic knowledge of the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, #CRPD. To find more about upcoming happenings at your Columbus Recreation and Parks, visit their Facebook page, Twitter page, or columbus.gov/recreationandparks.

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