A nature center in the borough’s largest park is one step closer to renovation.
The Orchard Beach Nature Center, near section two of the beach in Pelham Bay Park, is expected to receive a $1.5 million renovation of its building that is currently in the design phase.
The center serves as a hub for Urban Park Rangers who arrange tours and adventure excursions on the trails adjacent to Orchard Beach at Hunter Island and Twin Islands and throughout the park.
The trails feature scenic views of Long Island Sound, along with many species of birds and coastal marine wildlife, according to the NYC Parks Department.
The nature center is also a resource for park information, according to Parks.
Community Board 10 voted to unanimously approve the mayoral funded project on Monday, December 3. District manager Matt Cruz said that much of the money allocated would be allocated towards roof repair.
“I think that Pelham Bay Park has some of the rarest horticulture and wildlife in the city. For someone who may want to learn more about it, this center is an important [facility],” said Cruz.
The project is all the more significant because historically Pelham Bay Park has been underfunded, said Cruz.
Combined with the initiative to restore the Orchard Beach Pavilion, a new nature center would be a nice complement, said Cruz.
“We are excited that plans for the renovation of the Orchard Beach Nature Center in Pelham Bay Park are moving forward,” said Bonnie McGuire, Urban Park Rangers director. “Upon its completion, the center will be ADA compliant and will boast a new open, flexible layout that can help meet varied programming needs.”
The design phase of the project is expected to last until early 2019, and it will be followed by a procurement period that on average lasts nine months, according to Parks.
Debby Kawalick said that the nature center allows Bronxites of all ages to learn about wildlife, including seals and owls, that inhabit the area.
Many people aren’t aware that such wildlife exists in the borough, she said.
The center itself also has a collection of artifacts that encapsulate the natural world beyond its walls, said Kawalick.
“Seeing these artifacts helps children and adults learn about what is in the park and puts wildlife in context for them,” she said.
Kawalick said that she has been inside the center during inclement weather and has witnessed leaks emanating from the roof.
The Friends of Pelham Bay Park, an advocacy group for the park, are very excited that progress is being made on the nature center, said the organization’s president Nilka Martell.
“The center opened in 1986 and was in need of an extreme make-over,” said Martell.
She said that the center is a great place for Urban Park Rangers to host their family workshops and nature walks.
Kawalick said that its programming even includes a 12-hour overnight camping adventure offered by lottery in the summer, and seal watches from the beach.