Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitors Center & Park
In response to an increasing state-wide interest to celebrate the life and accomplishments of Harriet Tubman, a native to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the Maryland Department of General Services designated the design of the new Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park to GWWO Architects and its sub-consultant, Davis, Bowen & Friedel, Inc. (DBF). Our firm was delighted for inclusion in the planning phase of Dorchester County’s own state park. Our engineering team provided civil and site engineering services for the site development of seventeen acres adjacent to the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge as well as a 15,000 SF visitor/interpretive center.
With energy efficiency and sustainability at the forefront of the design team’s priorities, the visitor center was constructed to meet the requirements for a “Silver” LEED Rating from the US Green Building Council. In addition to the visitor center, low impact design strategies were incorporated into the development of a memorial garden, informational kiosk, picnic pavilion, walking trails, parking lot and access roadways, a bermed infiltration pond for on-site wastewater treatment, and a storage garage. In compliance with the project requirements, DBF ensured that the architectural expression of the visitor center and other site improvements closely adhered to the indigenous and historical character of the surrounding landscape. Our firm hopes that the State Park will enhance the educational and spiritual experience of the Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman’s renowned journey for students, visitors and historians in the years to come. DBF is pleased to have contributed in making the highly anticipated project a reality.
Multiple Environmental Site Design techniques (ESD), to the Maximum Extent Practicable (MEP), were proposed with this project including a green roofs, rain barrels, micro-bioretention areas, submerged gravel wetland, grass filter strips and swales, minimization of impervious areas, and utilization of alternative paving materials such as reinforced turf overflow parking areas. In addition, the visitor center grounds were used as an interpretive wetland/field/forest area where the importance of ESD is underlined and will be explained to the visitors.
All of the runoff from the visitor center rooftops is treated using ESD directly at the source. The building’s roof drains discharge runoff into a micro-bioretention basin, a fire suppression tank, or a rain barrel. The two micro-bioretention basins were sized to discharge the runoff that is “equivalent to a wooded site in good condition”. An overflow parking area was reinforced grass, thereby reducing the RCN for this area. The components of this project are spread out over the 17-acre site. The ESD design features were concentrated near the impervious areas to provide a stormwater management mechanism closer to the source. A wetland pond system was proposed near the park’s entrance to provide water quality and quantity management for the remaining pervious and impervious areas. The wetland pond was designed to be both a SWM facility and an environmental aesthetic educational feature near the park’s entrance.