Wild Center Parking: How a Natural History Museum Brought Nature to the Parking Lot Tupper Lake, NY


The Wild Center parking lot was designed to mimic natural hydrological processes. Photo credit: Private collection.

The parking lot connects with marked trails, which traverse the Wild Center’s 31-acre campus. Photo credit: Private collection.

The parking lot has both perimeter and interior landscaping, and is surfaced in permeable pavers rather than blacktop. Photo credit: Private collection.

To reach the museum building from the parking area, visitors walk down a short trail. Photo credit: Private collection.

The Wild Center’s main building and pond replaced an old sandpit; the site was formerly used for mining. Photo credit: Private collection.


For visitors to the Adirondack Park’s Natural History Museum, known as the Wild Center, their experience begins not when they walk into the building, but the moment they turn off the main road and into the entry drive. After traveling down a wooded drive with wildflowers, visitors park their cars in a lot that looks like a grassy field, surrounded by forest. From the parking area, visitors walk down a short trail to the building’s entrance, and the experience of nature continues from there.

The Wild Center was the Adirondack Park’s first LEED-certified building, and it has a wide array of green features. The parking lot, which is surfaced in permeable pavers rather than blacktop, is among these. Advantages of porous pavers over asphalt are numerous: they result in a much cooler surface; they absorb water, preventing runoff problems and erosion and also filtering out pollutants; and they last approximately 25 years and can be recycled, whereas blacktop typically lasts only 8 years and is considered toxic when disposed of.

By its first anniversary in 2007, the Wild Center had attracted more than 100,000 visitors, and the museum has continued to draw crowds. The majority of visitors return home to places where offices and strip commercial shopping centers – surrounded by a sea of asphalt – are a more common feature in the landscape than fields and woodlands. For these suburbanites, it just became a little easier to imagine the beauty and environmental payoff of bringing nature to parking lots.

Click to view a video about green parking at the Wild Center: