Visitors to the Santa Monica Mountains will have a new place to plan adventures and learn about the vast outdoor recreational area thanks to a state-of-the-art interagency facility set to open June 9 at
Replacing the old Thousand Oaks location, the Anthony C. Beilenson Visitor Center is named after the congressman who authored legislation establishing the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in 1978.
It will house the various agencies managing L.A.’s sprawling outdoor playground and preserve, including the National Park Service, California State Parks, Santa Monica Mountain Conservancy and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
The center is also a "net zero" structure, meaning it is powered entirely by solar energy, and was built using with the highest levels of sustainability in mind, said National Park Ranger Anthony Bevilacqua.
Constructed from the existing King Gillette Ranch stables built in 1928 by architect Wallace Neff, everything from the glass countertop at the information kiosk to the frame of the roof was built using recycled material, said Bevilacqua.
“Because it’s a recycled building, we did not need to transport in many new materials,” he said.
Upon entering the facility, an interactive orientation area allows hikers, bikers and equestrians to plan the trips based on their own personal preferences using a touch screen interactive map, which highlights the various trail and campsites in the Santa Monica Mountains.
The touch screen allows visitors to customize their trips with options such as plant diversity, family friendliness and wildlife diversity. The interactive map also shows visitors areas where the public can access the beach, Bevilacqua said.
Once past the interactive desk, visitors can explore the various other displays in the center. Sensory display booths highlight the various sounds, sights and smells that visitors may encounter while visiting the area.
“There is a high degree of biodiversity here,” he said. “This is not just a desert--we live in a Mediterranean climate that you can only find in five places on the planet. We want to remind visitors that this is a special place.”
Everything from motion-sensor captured photos to a mortar and pestle display will help visitors learn about the area’s rich native history and wildlife.
King Gillette Ranch was built by razor mogul King Gillette in the 1920s. The property saw several owners throughout the 20th century until the land was bought by park agencies for $35 million in 2004.
A ribbon-cutting for the center will take place June 9 from 10-11 a.m., followed by a tour and activities from 12-4 p.m.
The opening event will also include food trucks, music and other family activities.
Once open, the center’s operating hours will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with free two-hour parking adjacent to the facility. King Gillette Ranch is located at 26800 West Mulholland Highway.