Construction of the first phase of the expanded Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center is complete, and the public will get its first look at the new facility at a grand opening Saturday, Oct. 11.
The official ribbon cutting ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. and visitors can participate in a variety of free activities until 5 p.m., including environmental workshops, tours with park rangers, water creature exploration in the ponds, on-site plantings, "toddler" hikes and more. Event Program
The Environmental Education Center, at 1625 118th Ave. SE, is a gateway to the 320-acre Mercer Slough Nature Park, a wetland in the heart of urban Bellevue. Home to hundreds of diverse plants and animals that depend on the wetlands ecosystem for survival, the slough is ideal for environmental study.
Pacific Science Center and the City of Bellevue have offered classes at Mercer Slough for the past 15 years. However, the original education center was the Sullivan House, a retrofitted Parks property that could only accommodate 8,000 students each year. Once all phases of the new expansion are complete, the center will be able to welcome as many as 40,000 school children, teachers and families each year.
The new education center includes the Sullivan House (remodeled), a new classroom, wet lab, community building and a visitor center. A planned second phase of expansion will add an additional classroom and wet lab (the Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center pages have details).
With its special features, including slough overlooks, the wet lab and a tree house, the new facility will give visitors a hands-on wetlands experience. A network of boardwalks enables visitors to see the slough without disturbing it.
"I can think of no better place to observe and practice the balance between our urban way of life and the vibrant natural systems around us than this outdoor laboratory on Mercer Slough," project co-chair Jim Ellis said. "This is a place where the children of our cities can see, touch and smell life at the edge between land and water."
The partnership serves all ages. Pacific Science Center provides science-based education programs targeted to youth and families to inspire lifelong awareness, understanding and appreciation for stewardship of the natural world. With the same focus, the city provides environmental interpretive programs for adults and families. The city will also maintain the property.
The center, designed by Jones & Jones, has already earned a King County "Excellence in Building Green Award." Environmentally friendly construction materials and methods were used throughout the project. The "green" building elements include roofs that collect rainwater into a gentle runoff to nurture native plants.
Even the processes used to construct the buildings were in tune with the city's Environmental Stewardship initiative and the environmental mission of Pacific Science Center. The drills used for construction ran on corn oil to eliminate the threat of toxic seepage.
Puget Sound Energy helped lead the fundraising effort to make the expansion possible. The second phase of expansion is dependant on raising additional funds. The project co-chairs, Jerry Henry of PSE and Ellis, a longtime community leader, will continue raising funds for construction of the additional space.
"We are thrilled to be able to expand our space and naturalist-led programs to so that more school groups and individuals can experience and learn about all that this wetland and its contiguous watershed have to offer," said Bryce Seidl, president and CEO for Pacific Science Center.
Featured Grand Opening activities will include:
A speaker series, running throughout the day, highlighting:
- History of the Mercer Slough (presented by Eastside Heritage Center)
- Scope and importance of local watersheds (presented by Mountains to Sound)
- Salmon at the Mercer Slough (presented by Bellevue Stream Team)
- Green architecture at the new Environmental Education Center (presented by Jones & Jones)
- Energy efficiency (presented by Puget Sound Energy)
Workshops will explore topics including: animal tracks, birds, wetlands and pollution. Other activities include water creature exploration in the ponds, an on-site volunteer planting project, facility tours, hikes for all ages with park rangers and overviews of the many environmental programs for school groups, children and families. Free refreshments will be provided.
Complete details are presented in the grand opening program.
Directions and Parking:
Parking at the Environmental Education Center is extremely limited, but PEMCO Mutual Insurance will provide free shuttle service every 20 to 30 minutes from nearby Newport High School (4333 Factoria Blvd. SE), starting at 9:30 a.m.
Return to News Release Index