The City of Henderson has one of southern Nevada’s hidden gems. Unknown to most locals and tourists, the City of Henderson Bird Viewing preserve is frequented by birders that go out of their way to seek out special pieces of land that have been set aside and preserved as a safe bird habitat. The City of Henderson is poised to change its Bird Viewing Preserve’s brand to a more highly visible and accessible attraction.
The City of Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve is located east of Boulder Highway between Galleria Drive and what will be the extension of Russell Road. During the 90s, Henderson’s wastewater treatment plant decommissioned its ponds and left nine of the ponds filled. These ponds became a desirable habitat for many bird species as they seasonally migrate north for the summer and south for the winter. The various depths and characteristics of the ponds contribute to the different bird’s habitat favorability. Some of them have more reed coverage for nesting and protection, while others have more water surface area and better orientation for take off and landing patterns. All of the ponds have walkable trails around them and bird blinds scattered throughout for visitor observation and photography.
The chosen site for the new visitors center will be located on the north side of the Preserve and more easily accessed from where it is currently positioned. The new site at the junction of ponds 6, 7 and 8 provides the best opportunity to allow the Visitor Center to connect to the edge of the ponds creating vista views of the preserve. In addition, locating the Visitor Center on the north side of the Preserve affords the opportunity to incorporate it’s entry into the future development of Russell Road and surrounding neighborhood expansion and City Park.
Not being a surprise, the concept for the new Visitor’s Center incorporated the theme of flight. By responding to the characteristics of the site, the form of the building took the shape of a bird’s wings stretched out over the ponds in the moment just before lifting their feet out of the water taking off for flight. These “wings” of the building provide protection and shade for the reclaimed wood deck. The decks stretch over the ponds to provide an experience for the visitors that more closely relate to the actual experience that the birds have being immersed in their habitat.
The entry sequence to the Visitor Center starts with a winding walkway from the parking lot providing the opportunity for interpretative signage along with the possibility for art installations. A shaded entry with seating and an interpretative map exhibit provides an interesting space for people arriving to orient themselves to the preserve, along with bird migration directions and where best to observe the bird takeoff patterns. Once entering into the building, restrooms are connected to the inside of a vestibule for after hour access. An information desk greets the visitors once they move through the vestibule. The greeter behind the desk sits in high volume clearstory space that connects to a lower volume space surrounded with windows and pond views to the south and west. This space is filled with interpretative exhibits. It is also connected to a retail area adjacent to the entry occupying the southeast corner of the building. Administrative space, employee restroom; break room, storage, and garage for the “bird-mobile” are located to the north portion of the building. The northwest corner contains a large multi-purpose room that can be subdivided, making two separate classroom spaces. These classrooms open up to the northwest observation deck to outdoor learning spaces and more pond views.
Birds are attracted to the preserve’s habitat because its natural elements and characteristics provide them the necessities for survival during their migration through the harsh Mojave Desert. The same mentality has been applied to the choice of materials that will make up the Visitor’s Center. A metal panel roof with a combination of masonry block and rusted panels make up the envelope. Glass is designed to avoid sky reflection to make the facility bird friendly and safe.