It’s official. The Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center located in the White Mountains of the Inyo National Forest is now open. The forest held a grand opening celebration Sept. 1 with 400 people in attendance.
Serving as Master of Ceremonies was John Louth, Manager of the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. Louth has been nominated by the Pacific Southwest Region of the U.S. Forest Service for the national Gifford Pinchot Excellence in Interpretation and Conservation Education award for his work in the development of the new visitor center exhibits. The nomination also recognizes Louth’s 20 years of work in interpretation and conservation education and his contributions and assistance to many local communities, non-profits, tribes and other organizations in the development and delivery of interpretive services in the Eastern Sierra region.
Located at 10,000 feet elevation in the congressionally designated Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, the new visitor center interprets to an international audience the significance of the oldest living trees on earth. The new building is entirely solar powered and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified and was built to replace the old log cabin visitor center that was destroyed by arson fire in 2008.
The 2,500-square-foot visitor center, which was designed by Shah Kawasaki Architects from Oakland, Calif., features a high-beamed ceiling and is a rustic wood and stone design, reminiscent of some national park lodges. Inside the building visitors are treated to a 28-seat theater (where the film Living History is shown), a bookstore operated by the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association, an art gallery of Bristlecone art and interpretive exhibits that tell the story of the natural history of the ancient trees. Patio exhibits outside the building help after-hours visitors to understand how these trees live for so long and in such environmentally harsh conditions.
The grand opening celebration, hosted by the Inyo National Forest and the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association, honored the many volunteers, donors, and supporters who contributed resources, time and energy in helping to make the reconstruction project possible. Artists and the Interpretive Association were recognized during the ceremony for all they have contributed over the past four years.
For more information about the Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center please go to the Inyo National Forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/inyo or call 760.873.2500.