Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Interpretive Center

Hershberger Design prepared the master plan and site design for the Laurance S. Rockefeller Interpretive Center located within Grand Teton National Park. Previously the JY Ranch, family compound for Laurence Rockefeller, the project scope included locating an interpretive center, circulation planning and design for vehicles, bicycles, and horseback access; layout and design for over 10 miles of interpretive hiking and ADA trails; design of special interpretive and viewing spaces; and reclamation planning involving the relocation of over 25 structures to Granite Ranch (link this to Granite Ranch project).

The LSR Interpretive Center is located at the forest edge, a quarter-mile from the parking lot in a sage meadow. The building, profoundly quiet and unobtrusive, lets the landscape speak for itself. In the middle of the modest 50-car parking lot, a bioswale captures runoff. A centrally-located boardwalk engages visitors with the wetland channel and leads them to a trail through an aromatic sage meadow. A butterfly roof kiosk greets visitors at the trailhead. Atypical of National Park Service kiosks, water is effectively channeled away from the reader allowing complete attention to the message of stewardship. A simple water bottle filling station constructed of recycled metal and a native boulder reminds visitors of water’s important role in shaping this landscape. The curved boardwalk deck allows visitors to experience the creek environment. In the spring the creek runs under the boardwalk during high runoff. A great spot for quiet contemplation, a large bench invites hikers to stop, look, and listen. A perforated metal walkway encourages visitors to engage with the cold mountain stream and become intimate with a waterfall, an experience that is difficult to achieve in typical national park settings.

Thirty-five structures on the property were taken away and reused in Grand Teton National Park and nearby ranch sites. Many of the historic cabins were carefully relocated to a new site close to the LSR Preserve. The landscape architect supervised the cabin move, master plan, and construction of the new ranch compound. The historic cabins were clustered with native plantings to shelter them from harsh mountain weather. Each cabin has a unique perimeter view of the ranch and mountains. The Main Lodge is oriented directly to its former home, the LSR Preserve. An extensive road system and parking lot were removed and reclaimed. Cabins and development were replaced by a simple system of trails and quiet lakeside overlooks. Wetland systems were reconnected and reestablished.

The original vehicular bridge was repurposed to connect trails on both sides of the creek. Benches invite hikers to relax and enjoy the environment. Railings placed adjacent to open water allow visitors to lean over and view the stream. The ranch pond was created to harvest aggregate for road construction and structural back-fill for buildings and utilities resulting in reduced off-site construction impacts.