Visitors to Huntley Meadows Park will be able to enjoy programs in the great outdoors when a new teaching pavilion opens at the park this summer.
The outdoor classroom teaching pavilion will be located about 30 feet off of the main path between the parking lot and the visitor’s center. It will measure 20 feet by 28 feet and feature a concrete floor and open sides, with the roof supported by pillars, said Park Manager Kevin Munroe. The pavilion will be painted to match the visitor’s center.
Crews have already begun preparing the site, said Munroe, who hopes to have the pavilion complete by July or August.
“We will pretty much start using it as soon as it’s in,” Munroe said. “We’ll use it for all sorts of programs—school programs, camp programs and our programs, for children and adults and everyone in between.”
Park staff wanted an outdoor classroom to emphasize environmental education and provide a forest immersion program experience.
“We often have more demand for programs than we have space to give them, so we wanted to be able somehow to provide more people opportunities for environmental education at the park,” Munroe said. “In addition to that, we loved the idea of having an outdoor classroom so people can learn in a situation where they’re surrounded by nature.”
The pavilion is expected to cost about $60,000 and is being funded through a combination of donations and grants. Seed money for the project came from a late park volunteer, Willa Howard, and her husband, Kevin Howard.
When no programs are taking place, the pavilion will also be available for rental for picnics, birthday parties and other events.
Huntley Meadows Park covers 1,425 acres and includes forests, meadows and wetlands teeming with wildlife. About 200,000 visitors explore the park every year, including both local residents and tourists.
The park first opened in 1975.