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Late summer visitors—Don’t miss the new visitor center at Old Faithful!

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For everyone planning to be in Yellowstone later this month [August 2010], you are invited to attend the dedication of the large new Visitor Education Center that has gone up during the past year and more at Old Faithful. The center will be dedicated at 11:00 am on August 25th in a ceremony with Superintendent Suzanne Lewis, special guest National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, and keynote speaker Paul Schullery, a Yellowstone historian and author of many books about the park.

For children of Junior Ranger age (5 to 12) there’s to be a Yellowstone Wildlife Olympics that day at 1:00 pm. For details see:

The Yellowstone Park Foundation is proud to tell us that the new building uses about one-third less energy than other similar size buildings, contains high percentages of recycled materials, and that interior furnishings contain raw materials such as cork, flax, and wheat for sustainability.

And here is yesterday’s news about park visitation: More than 957,000 visitors entered Yellowstone in July 2010. That’s the most ever recorded for any single month.

Visitor Center at Old Faithful Village

Categories: Bio, History
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When I first heard they were putting up a new visitor center and planning to call it a Visitor Education Center, I confess to wondering if that name would put people off. Do people really want to come to Yellowstone to be educated? Don’t the kids who have escaped school for their all-too-short summer vacations want to just enjoy the park and all it has to offer?

Well, they didn’t listen to my (unvoiced) objections, and the new center will be officially opened on August 25th [2010]. I admit I can hardly wait to see it and have planned my own time in the park this year around that date. I would love to tell the NPS officials in charge of the ceremony how I fondly remember the combination ranger station, museum, and amphitheater where I got to spend happy times two visitor centers ago, when my family lived at Old Faithful for four great summers.

I particularly remember the model geyser in the little museum and the samples of the rocks to be found—which, I later learned, are actually created in Yellowstone. The museum also had some labeled plant samples, so I began to learn the differences between lodgepole pines and the other evergreen trees in the park. I believe there were also some sample mounted animals, but I was never a big animal person (live or stuffed), unlike most of the children who come to the park.

The amphitheater was where my family spent many pleasant evenings listening to ranger talks and singing western songs that many people knew in those days. I’ve wondered since that time why they did not have an amphitheater when the visitor center was replaced about forty years ago, but there will be a state-of-the-art indoor theater in the new building.

Charrette for Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Village

Categories: On the Web
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I thought I had a pretty good passive vocabulary. Then I came across the word charrette and hadn’t a clue what it meant. Out came the Merriam-Webster, but the word wasn’t there, so I tried my nine-pound Random House. Success! “A final, intensive effort to finish a project, especially an architectural design project, before a deadline.”

A five-day meeting this fall, which the organizers called a charrette, was about improving visitor experience in the Old Faithful area—before the centennial of the National Park Service in 2016. Goals included finding ways to improve vehicular and pedestrian circulation and allowing for visitors to access and learn about the geothermal features and the area’s rich history. Led by Planning and Design Chief Eleanor Williams Clark and with a final report funded by the Yellowstone Park Foundation, it came up with some interesting plans. The new visitor center, scheduled to open on August 25, 2010, is already set to present an all-new educational experience about the geothermal features. The preliminary charrette report and pictures are described in “Envisioning a More Serene Old Faithful Area.”

One of the experts at the charrette noted that, as his group was watching “a particularly long and spectacular eruption of Castle Geyser,” they realized that most of the crowd standing around Old Faithful Geyser, “probably didn’t even know it was there.” He continued, “If people were more aware of the other equally awe-inspiring features to see in the area—both natural and cultural—we would have less of a surge of pedestrian and vehicle traffic flowing away immediately after each Old Faithful eruption. Visitors would significantly improve their experience by exploring what the Upper Geyser Basin truly has to offer.”

I’m excited about the prospect of a new look for the area that I almost think of as my second home. This summer I celebrated the seventieth year since I first spent a summer at Old Faithful; my husband and I gave a small party in the Inn. I remember visiting the small ranger station and museum that was in the same spot where the huge new visitor center is now being completed. I am happy to think that many other people will be able to find and appreciate all the aspects of the Old Faithful area, and not just dash in, watch an eruption of the famous geyser, and go off somewhere else.