LANESBOROUGH -- The newly renovated Mount Greylock Visitors Center features a series of extensive, interactive, museum-quality installations designed to "help people to see the overall majesty of this mountain, and give them a much richer experience."
That was the message from Priscilla Geigis, director of parks and recreation for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, who presided over a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday at the updated center at the foot of the state’s highest peak.
"This is a very special, spiritual, magical place," Geigis said. "When people come here and they feel that spirit, they understand why it’s important to preserve these places for future generations."
The renovation project - which included developing an interpretive master plan for the reservation and installing new interpretive signage along the roads and at the trail heads - was funded through a federal grant for $860,000 and a state grant of $215,000. It has been in development since 2009.
The visitors center now is a polished, interpretive museum that entertains and educates through interactive displays, artifacts from the mountain’s past, and a 3-D topographical map of the region enhanced with interactive lighting.
The exhibits call attention to the geological, historic and cultural impacts the mountain has had on the region.
The point of the new installations is to generate "informed stewards" of the mountain, said Alec Gillman, DCR’s visitor services supervisor at Mount Greylock. "We hope to help people take good care of this and other state parks."
"I believe we are fostering a new generation of stewards - people who understand the value and legacy of Mount Greylock through education," said Wendy Pearl, the preservation planner for the DCR. "And its not just about education - it’s also a lot of fun."
An 11-minute film also helps visitors understand the history, culture and ecology of the reservation.
Part of the exhibit portrays a short history of the Civilian Conservation Corps, whose members built the roads, trails, lean-tos and the Thunderbolt Ski Shelter, as well as completing Bascom Lodge atop the summit, during the 1930s.
As visitors proceed through the center, they will also see examples of various species of flora and fauna that reside on the mountain.
Steve and Tammy Lee McGee of Ocean Park, N.J. happened by the center during the ceremony on their way to the summit.
They noticed the history and hard work that hundreds have taken part in through the last 200 years of Mount Greylock is well represented.
"It really shows our attraction to nature doesn’t change, regardless of your age," Tammy Lee McGee said.