A groundbreaking ceremony will be held for the construction of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s new science laboratory and education facility on Wednesday, February 1, at 1 p.m. The ceremony for the new Twin Creeks Science and Education Center will be held on the building site located off Cherokee Orchard Road at the Twin Creeks Natural Resources Center, just south of Gatlinburg, Tenn. The public is invited to hear officials speak from the National Park Service, City of Gatlinburg, Friends of the Smokies, Great Smoky Mountains Association, and Lord, Aeck & Sargent Architecture Firm from Atlanta, Ga., about the center, its planned use, and the innovative design strategies that will make this a model facility. Congressional representatives will also be present. Some clearing and excavation has already begun at the building site where the ceremony will take place so participants should wear appropriate outdoor and foot attire and be prepared to walk a short distance. The new 15,000-square-foot facility features a number of environmentally sustainable design attributes. The center is the first major new building constructed in the Park since the 1960s and will give Park staff the capacity to strengthen its natural resource management capabilities while serving as a model facility for innovative “green” technology. Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson said that “The long-planned center will allow us to more efficiently manage our research, science and monitoring activities, which have grown significantly over the years. The center will also become the focal point of the world’s first All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory, a project to identify the Park’s estimated 100,000 species of living organisms. The inventory, in itself, is a huge undertaking which brings hundreds of researchers each year from all over the world to the Smokies.” The ability to share the Park’s scientific information and work with students and teachers of neighboring communities through an array of educational opportunities at the center is a hallmark component. The $4.4 million facility incorporates a large, practical working area for visiting scientists, offices for Park staff, dedicated space for educational classes and seminars and volunteer projects, a chemical laboratory, and climate-controlled curatorial space for natural history specimens. Superintendent Ditmanson commented that “We appreciate all the support we received to make this facility a reality. Congress, in recognizing the importance of the science and education work done in the Park and the need for a new facility, appropriated the majority of the funding. The Friends and the Great Smoky Mountains Association made generous donations to fill the gap between the federal funding and contract cost and the City of Gatlinburg entered into a partnership with the Park to expand its sewer system to the site to bring the project to fruition.”... read the rest of the story by Subscribing now.