Donal C. O’Brien Jr. Audubon Sanctuary and Center
Location: Pine Island, NC
Completion Date: TBD
Project Team: Frank Harmon, Tika Hicks with David Swanson, Landscape Architect
Named for Audubon’s legendary board chair Donal C. O’Brien Jr., the Sanctuary and Center at Pine Island protects more than 2600 acres of marshes along Currituck Sound, as well as bottomland areas and about 370 acres of dry sandy areas and upland maritime forests. In 2010 Audubon asked us to prepare a concept master plan for the preservation and renovation of the sanctuary. The Sanctuary property requires low-impact improvements to enhance the Audubon Society’s mission and to allow visitors to better experience and appreciate the environment around them. Yet beyond those necessary improvements, this property needs to be left alone to thrive as nature intended it to do.
Our Design Response
The new Master Plan will enhance conservation efforts on the site and in the region, support environmental education programs, and provide greater opportunities for public access and enjoyment of the sanctuary. The main components are:
- Entrance and site access: A new, more welcoming entrance, which complements the natural experience to come, will include new signage, an entry kiosk and turn-around space, porous-paved parking areas tucked beneath existing trees, and access to a shaded trail that will lead through the trees and up into the sandy dunes. The trail will provide a view of the entire campus before descending again through the natural terrain to the Visitors Gateway Building.
- Gateway to the campus: The Donal C. O’Brien Visitors Gateway Building will rest lightly on its site and demonstrate stewardship of the natural environment a well as sustainable, regionally appropriate architectural design and construction. It will create a sense of arrival to this unique place of land and sky. To the left of the breezeway will be a screened porch large enough for groups of visitors to gather. To the right of the breezeway will be eco-friendly restrooms and water fountain. Weather tolerant signage and exhibits will provide information about the sanctuary.
- Trail System: From the Visitors Gateway Building, a series of short and long trails will guide visitors into the sanctuary. The trail system will re-use existing pathways and roads to minimize site impact and to avoid disturbing waterfowl nesting areas. New trails will use boardwalks and pathways of gravel screenings or other recycled materials.
- Outdoor Learning Stations: At selected areas along the trails, new Outdoor Learning Stations will recall in design the old duck blinds within the sanctuary. These will also provide visitors with shelter from rain and sun.
- Natural Features: Native and indigenous plants will be used wherever needed for screening and wind protection. An existing rectangular pond will be reconfigured with softened edges. It will also be a waterfowl management pond, maintained with full water level. A Demonstration Garden will be located in an existing open field and a new small pond will be constructed within it for displaying indigenous aquatic plants.
- Other construction within the campus will include: replacing or moving the old caretaker’s lodge to allow for construction of the new Visitors Gateway Building; renovation of the historic Hunt Club, including raising it above the floodplain; renovation of the old Garage into conference space for the Audubon Society, including raising it above sea level; renovation of the old Guide’s quarters for Audubon Society administrative offices; and construction of a proposed 12,000-square-foot multi-purpose building to be named the Pine Island Research Center.