The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Legacy Management's Fernald Preserve Visitors Center is located near the center of the 1,050-acre remediated and ecologically restored Fernald Preserve, Ohio, Site. It is surrounded by a network of trails and wildlife observation opportunities that allow visitors to enjoy and observe nature while offering a unique and close-up look at various habitats and ecosystems that exist throughout the site. The Fernald Preserve contains 395 acres of forest; 384 acres of prairies, savanna, and grasslands; 60 acres of open-water; and 83 acres of wetlands.
A 7-mile network of trails meanders through the Fernald Preserve. Trails range in length, difficulty, and highlights.
Short, flat trails around the Fernald Preserve Visitors Center offer views of expansive natural areas including the former production area, as well as several memorials honoring the contributions made by Fernald site employees during the Cold War and subsequent environmental cleanup. Longer trails with uneven terrain begin at the visitors center and extend toward the northern and southern boundaries of the site. Several overlooks, a wildlife viewing blind, and a boardwalk through a wetland provide additional opportunities to observe a diverse array of plants, birds, and other wildlife.
The visitors center was one of the first buildings in Ohio to receive platinum certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, the nationally accepted standard for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings. Advantages to LEED-certified buildings are lower operating and maintenance costs, a high degree of energy and water efficiency, and a more healthy and safe working environment. Environmentally friendly features of the building include a ground-source heating and cooling system and a zero-discharge biowetland where water, plants, microorganisms, and the environment interact to treat the building’s wastewater.
The award-winning Fernald Preserve Visitors Center is the focal point of public activity at the site. Completed in August 2008, the visitors center includes a clean warehouse, once used during the environmental cleanup that was redesigned in cooperation with the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. Exhibits opened to the public in the visitors center depict the diverse history of the Fernald site, including its geological history and the indigenous American Indians and Euro-American settlers who lived on the land, while also focusing on the Cold War uranium metals production industry, the subsequent environmental cleanup, and today’s ongoing legacy management.