The Liberty State Park Interpretive Center, which closed for more than eight years after suffering severe damage during Superstorm Sandy, has reopened its doors to the public.
The nature center, which opened in 1985, has been extensively renovated and rebuilt over the past nine years to make the building functional again. State Department spokeswoman Caryn Shinske said the building was badly destabilized by the storm and several exhibits were damaged.
The repairs and renovations totaled $ 3.5 million, of which $ 2 million was funded by state corporate taxes. This project was one of many in the park to tackle the effects of the storm. While the repairs and the time to raise funds took eight years, the opening was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic by a year.
The center’s proximity to wetlands made it prone to a storm like Sandy, Shinske said, noting that measures to prevent another weather disaster for the center were not part of the renovation plans.
“As the New Jersey climate continues to change, there is no guarantee that similar circumstances would not happen again if another storm of Sandy’s size and intensity hit the Jersey City area,” she said. “Raising the building and other flood protection factors to prevent similar damage in the future were not practical for this renovation.”
The center now has new exhibits related to the nature of the Hudson River estuary. The night theater gives viewers an immersive display of night creatures, the Pond Room gives visitors an interactive panorama of the animals near the pond right next to the center, and the Salt Marsh Room teaches visitors about food webs, tides, mud flats and more creatures that make up the Inhabit area.
The centre’s Discovery Room, with kid-friendly interactive activities, and the auditorium have been temporarily closed due to COVID-19 safety concerns, according to staff.
John Cecil, Director of Parks and Forests at DEP, was excited and delighted with the reopening of the center.
“We’re excited to reopen the Nature Interpretation Center to the public, and look forward to helping visitors of all ages learn about the diversity of animals, plants, and habitats in Liberty State Park.”
Among other things, the main area of the center has now been enlarged and there are new bathrooms that are accessible from the outside even when the building is closed. The center also allows visitors to explore a nature trail in the 36-acre Richard J. Sullivan Natural Area.
Sam Pesin, President of Friends of Liberty State Park, was delighted that the center was finally open to the public.
“It’s exciting that after almost nine years the nature center is reopened with brand new exhibits for students and people of all ages,” he said. “(The center) will complement their first-hand experience of benefiting from the urban nature itself throughout the park.”
The center is located at 275 Freedom Way in Jersey City and is open Wednesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and closed on Monday and Tuesday.