Public Lands Day on September 24th marked the grand opening of the newly remodeled visitor center at John Muir NHS. The renovations in the environmentally friendly visitor center include materials that were chosen for sustainability and energy conservation.
The construction project created a larger lobby to greet visitors, as well as providing space for new exhibits to educate the public about the life and achievements of conservationist John Muir. New interpretive exhibits, a life-size sculpture of Muir (funded by the Western National Parks Association), an HD projector, a bookstore, and additional bathrooms are some of the improvements for visitors and staff alike.
Superintendent Tom Leatherman and John Muir Association president JoAnne Dunec began the day by greeting the Martinez crowd. Along with the NPS, the John Muir Association helped to pay for 50% of the visitor center renovations, and it never would have happened without their help and the help of their dedicated donors.
"These changes are part of a long-term goal to bring John Muir's legacy alive in Martinez, and to reach new audiences in the community," said Leatherman.
After the ribbon was cut, the crowd streamed in for its first look. Comments from visitors included: “Nice and bright”, “I liked seeing Muir’s books and stuff he owned in the cases”, “I love the statue, and now I can have my picture taken with my hero!”
The connection to National Public Lands Day gave visitors a chance to help plant native grasses around the visitor center and on the park’s Mt. Wanda property. Nearly 3,500 native grasses were planted that day. Interpretive and curatorial tours of the Muir home were well attended throughout the day. The park’s new cell phone tour of the orchards and their connection to Muir was also well received by visitors.
In addition to the physical changes and program offerings at the site, visitors and staff also celebrated elimination of the entrance fee and the increase in park hours from five days a week to seven days a week, making the site available and accessible to all.