Locust Grove Nature Center


Today Locust Grove Nature Center is housed in a small, aging retrofit facility adapted from a toboggan run that opened its doors in 1972, operating for a few short years before shuttering in 1977. The current demand for year-round programming and multi-functional event space far exceeds Locust Grove’s capacity. The location of the nature center uniquely positions Locust Grove to serve as an in-demand local resource that draws a diverse array of visitors from across Montgomery County. One of its primary advantages is its proximity to Cabin John Creek, and thus also its position within the greater Cabin John Regional Park. The ecological amenities of Cabin John include unique natural landforms and wildlife habitats associated with Maryland’s Piedmont region. Locust Grove’s trail system and grounds present the rich story of natural heritage located well within the urbanized boundaries of the county. Another significant benefit of Locust Grove’s location is its position along Democracy Boulevard near the I-270 interchange with the Capital Beltway. This immediate proximity to the Beltway, the backbone of D.C. metro area’s circulation, provides convenient access from most areas of Montgomery County and the greater D.C. metro region. Locust Grove has excellent visibility from this major arterial road which is unique among comparable nature centers in this region. In addition, its topography is naturally suited for supporting a large structure. Locust Grove has ample acreage of high quality, gently sloped land available to suit a major new facility that could meet the growing demand for this type of facility. This report reviews a series of high profile nature centers recently built across the United States including two prominent facilities located in Maryland: Robinson Nature Center in Howard County and Irvine Nature Center in Baltimore County. It also examines the natural features of Cabin John Park to identify opportunities and constraints related to nature center design. Additionally, one chapter is devoted to reviewing important design standards including site accessibility, vehicular circulation, stormwater management, and habitat restoration. Finally, three alternative conceptual designs are presented as an exercise in generating idea for the design of a new nature center for Locust Grove.


Final project for LARC642 Graduate Landscape Architecture Studio III (Fall 2017). University of Maryland, College Park.