Blue Ridge Discovery Center (BRDC) envisions the creation of a world-class residential education facility, biological field station, and interpretative center focused on the natural wonders of the Blue Ridge. This facility will act as a basecamp to explore, discover, and share the greater Mount Rogers region. Building on ten years of past programming, our Center will host multi-day youth and adult programs, support traveling researchers and universities, and help visitors discover the intricacies of the Southern Appalachians.
We envision a giant naturalist cabin where one can prepare for exploration, launch from, and then return to for reflection and to document and share what was learned. BRDC will not only provide the support structure of laboratories, food service, dormitories, libraries, collections, and meeting halls, but we will also provide professional guides to further the connection to nature. Ultimately, the Center will be a place of inspiration that will redefine our relationship with nature in the 21st century and build the next generation of stewards for one of the greatest natural treasures in North America.
WHAT THE CENTER WILL MEAN TO OUR COMMUNITY
The creation of the next generation of stewards
The preservation of one of the most endangered Historic Landmarks in Virginia
20+ jobs, with secondary and tertiary economic impacts
Vital alternative educational opportunities
WHAT THE CENTER WILL MEAN FOR BRDC
Year-round residential and day programming for youth and adults
An interpretive gateway for visitors and residents alike
The ability to highlight the Blue Ridge Mountains on a national and international scale
Facilities to host scientists, artists, and naturalists who focus on the region
The primary function of BRDC revolves around education. We believe that hands-on activities in the field are the most powerful way to reach students. Our aim is to extend our education programs into multi- day, multi-season, and even multi-year engagements. By providing long-term experiential learning, the opportunity for powerful impact on the region is greatly increased. A residential education facility is vital to this goal.
The facility will feature overnight accommodations for a maximum of 80 individuals. This will include a dining hall serviced by a commercial kitchen, meeting rooms, dormitories, and common spaces. Students traveling from afar will participate in multi-day programming that covers a variety of natural history subjects. With the Center acting as a base camp, students will have the opportunity to prepare for excursions using a variety of resources including the library, meeting hall, and specimen collections. After field explorations to various regional natural assets, students will return to basecamp to document findings, reflect on the experiences, and share their discoveries with others. Interest-driven programming combined with experiential learning and a mentoring environment provide a powerful education lesson that develops independent, critical thinking skills.
Beyond providing this service to students, the Center will have the capacity to host a variety of events including regional conferences, fundraisers, and community programs. Each year BRDC hosts the now bi-annual Mount Rogers Naturalist Rally in the spring and fall. This event is now going on its 44th year and was originally founded at the Konnarock Girls Training School in the early 1970’s. Bringing this event back to this facility and combining it with overnight accommodations will double the revenue and impact.
BIOLOGICAL FIELD STATION
Located at the dividing line between many northern and southern species, Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain reach over 5600’ in elevation, and as a result, they are the epicenter of biodiversity in the region. Notable research is currently being done in the area, but the presence of a Center that actively supports that work will facilitate new lines of inquiry, monitoring, and discovery. BRDC will build a consortium of universities to power field research focused on this treasure trove of natural assets. At a time when climate change monitoring is crucial, these “sky islands” and their globally unique habitats are ideal subjects for scientists to answer national and international questions. Furthermore, place-based research has become a national trend, with scientists often dedicating their life’s work to a single location. There is no better location to focus that attention than the Mount Rogers region.
The Center will incorporate researcher housing, laboratories, specimen collections, archives, and libraries that partnering scientists and universities can use as a forward base for doing sophisticated field research. BRDC believes that innovative research feeds the discovery pipeline and that the availability of an ideally-located research node will be a boon to academic institutions and the community at large. Resulting scientific papers and popular articles will bring beneficial attention to the region’s importance as a natural and biological asset while providing content and support for BRDC’s educational programs.
It is vital now more than ever to reconnect our society with nature and redefine our relationship with our surrounding ecosystems. Whether it is the local community or tourists traveling from afar, it is important that they have the opportunity to learn and understand the complexities of the places they visit and live. To that end, the Center aims to tell the story of the Blue Ridge, weaving geology, biology, and anthropology into an epic tale about the wonders around us. By helping visitors learn more about the complexity of the ecosystems and introducing them to the things that make this place so special, we will build lifelong stewards.
To achieve these goals, BRDC will provide self-learning opportunities throughout the Center and expert guides to assist visitors. The Center will include a natural history museum with hands-on activities, interpretative displays, specimen collections, and a library specific to the region. The grounds will include native plant gardens, and trails that highlight the biodiversity. Exhibits and galleries within the Center will feature local history, rare or indicative species, and the work of visiting artists. Visitors to the region will be able to use the Center as a gateway to discover the Blue Ridge and learn in detail about the context around them. Local community members will be reconnected with the place they call home and build a deeper understanding and appreciation of their heritage.