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Feb 22nd
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Home National & State Parks Grand Teton Laurance Rockefeller Preserve Center Offers Grand Teton Visitors High Def Way To Experience Park

Laurance Rockefeller Preserve Center Offers Grand Teton Visitors High Def Way To Experience Park

We Bring Our Readers a Special Insider's Look at Wyoming’s New Grand Teton Rockefeller Center

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Officially it's known as the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve, others simply know it as the Preserve, but whatever you call it, visitors to Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park will come to know it as some of the most breathtaking country in America, and it's now part of the nation's National Parks System.

The Preserve, approximately 1,100 acres of majestic, natural beauty southeast of Phelps Lake, is a gift from the late Laurance S. Rockefeller to the citizens of the United States and the world.
Formerly known as the JY Ranch, the property was part of approximately 35,000 acres of valley lands purchased by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. during the late 1920s and early 1930s for the purpose of protecting and enlarging Grand Teton National Park.

Valued at over $160 million, the property was given by Rockefeller to the public with the intent that visitors will be inspired to appreciate the land and all of its wonder, "and also foster individual responsibility for conservation stewardship," according to the National Park Service.

But Rockefeller wasn't just satisfied in giving the land to the public; he wanted people to see it in its original, pristine condition. He ordered that all roads, ranch buildings, utilities and other structures be removed in order to restore the area's natural landscape and re-establish natural systems.

One building, however, remains: the new Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center, a multi-million-dollar, state-of-the-art interpretive facility where visitors are able to visually and audibly experience close up the ecology of the Preserve and the Grand Tetons.

The center officially opened June 21, 2008. On hand for the dedication ceremoney were Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott and the staff of Grand Teton National Park, the family and associates of Laurance S. Rockefeller, former Assistant Secretary of State John Turner, and approximately 175 guests.

During the ceremony, Lucy Rockefeller Waletzky said her father thought of "mind-body-spirit as one word," because people would be "physically and emotionally renewed at the same time."

Turner spoke of floating the Snake River with Laurance and Mary Rockefeller "on a beautiful fall day with blazing colors," and having Mr. Rockefeller hint at his desire to return the JY Ranch to its natural condition. Turner went on to say that "Laurance hoped people would restore their spirits in the wilderness setting."

The center, approximately 7,000 square feet, includes display rooms where visitors are able to see, hear and touch the natural settings that are outside the building. It includes parking for around 50 cars, restrooms and a 12-mile trail network.

"The center is not a place for orientation for visitors about Grand Teton National Park, but it is a destination in and of itself, a springboard for people to understand nature, a way for visitors to open up their hearts and minds to what's around them," said Jackie Skaggs, spokesperson for Grand Teton National Park.

The centerpiece of the facility is a viewing room with three large high definition television screens which will display what's at the Preserve.

Visitors move through a series of sensory experiences linked with a poem by esteemed nature writer Terry Tempest Williams. These visual, auditory and tactile explorations include recordings of Mr. Rockefeller speaking about conservation, high definition nature videos, large-scale photography, and a soundscape room with nature recordings from the Preserve.

"It shows what's here for people to experience - everything from clouds to large animals and small butterflies," Skaggs said. "People can sit on a bench, move around to different screens, see different things."

The soundscape room, what Skaggs called more like a sensaround room, offers visitors the chance to hear the Preserve's sounds - everything from birds to the rustle of pine trees.

The center also includes a quiet room for reading, or just thinking about what's at the Preserve.

"All of this was driven and directed by Laurance Rockefeller," Skaggs said. "He wanted the land to speak for itself, to help people see how we relate to nature by itself, and come away with a greater appreciation for conservation stewardship."

The Jackson Hole, Wyoming architectural firm of John Carney Architects designed the center.

"Before it opened, the rangers here at the park had a chance to see, hear and experience some of the things in the Center, and it's fantastic," Skaggs told OldWestNewWest.Com. "People coming here are really going to love it."

National & State Parks