Carlsbad Caverns Project Awarded Sustainable Design Certification

Carlsbad Cavern Natural Entrance Route.

Carlsbad Cavern Natural Entrance Route. Photo by Daniel Mayer/Wikipedia

A parking lot rehabilitation project at Carlsbad Caverns National Park recently joined 23 other projects newly certified by the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), a pilot program to promote sustainable land development and management practices.

Started in 2010, the Bat Cave Draw Rehabilitation project replaced a parking lot near the entrance to Carlsbad Cavern with native vegetation after it was discovered that small amounts of contaminants, including motor oil and antifreeze, from parking lot runoff wound up in some cavern pools.

The project involved planning with a multi-disciplinary team over many years to replace most of the Bat Cave Draw parking lot with terraced beds of native plants, mitigate contaminants in other parking areas, and re-configure the entrance to the visitor center. A small parking lot still exists in Bat Cave Draw to allow visitors with wheelchairs easier access to the Bat Flight Amphitheater.

The park used native plants to revegetate most of the former parking lot and visitor center areas, with all plants grown from locally-genetic stock. The project also made use of salvaged materials and plants, relied on regional materials, and maintained the integrity of existing historic stone walls, which were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

As a result of the parks hard work, there is now reduced paving over the cavern, cleaner storm water runoff entering the cavern, and increased habitat for wildlife.

In recognition for their efforts, the park has received a two-star rating from SITES.

We’re pleased that we could participate in the SITES pilot program for sustainable landscapes. Sustainability speaks to the heart of our Mission Statement and makes sense in so many ways. Bat Cave Draw offers visitors a beautiful approach to the natural entrance of the cavern. Its native plants mimic the surrounding environment and slow runoff during storms. And locally grown plants and local materials have the added benefit of being less costly. John Benjamin, Carlsbad Caverns Superintendent

A partnership of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center of The University of Texas at Austin, and the United States Botanic Garden, SITES was created in 2005 to fill a critical need for guidelines and recognition of sustainable landscapes based on their planning, design, construction, and maintenance.

Carlsbad Caverns Awarded Certification in Sustainable Design Initiative [Carlsbad Caverns National Park]

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