They're not particularly glamorous, but the renovations under way to the visitor center at Wind Cave National Park will provide utility efficiencies, enhance fire protection, and protect the park's museum collections with better climate control.
The $1.4 million project will replace the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning, telephone, and computer network systems, along with installing a fire sprinkler system.
“We are using money collected from cave tour receipts to fund this project,” said park Superintendent Vidal Davila. “It will make heating and cooling the building more efficient and improve its fire protection by installing the building’s first sprinkler system.”
Work began in earnest last week and is expected to continue into May, according to officials at the park. For the immediate future, visitors to the building will discover a network of plywood tunnels in the lobby that will lead them to exhibits that remain open. The visitor center’s bookstore, managed by the Black Hills Parks and Forest Association, will remain open throughout the construction project, although occasionally on a limited basis.
“The work will occur in phases, so the impact to visitors and employees will be kept to a minimum,” Superintendent Davila added. “We will continue to offer three cave tours of the Garden of Eden daily at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.”
However, the construction has led to cancellation of this year's Christmas open house, a fixture for many years, due to the lack of space in the lobby.
Among the project’s many benefits will be a climate controlled environment for the park’s museum collection which protects over 15,000 specimens and objects in the visitor center.