Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center Opens to the Public

June 21, 2008
Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott and the staff of Grand Teton National Park, the family and associates of Laurance S. Rockefeller, former Assistant Secretary of State John Turner, and approximately 175 guests joined together on Saturday, June 21, 2008, for a dedication ceremony to mark the grand opening of the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center. The new interpretive center—the first platinum-level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified building to be constructed in the National Park System—offers visitors a distinctive opportunity to learn about the natural world while exploring the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve property in Grand Teton National Park. Eight miles of woodland trails wind throughout the 1,106-acre Preserve; these trails have been open since November of 2007 when the property transferred to the National Park Service. The trail system is accessible year-round, and the new 7,500-square-foot Center will be open annually from May through September.

The Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve is a reflection of Mr. Rockefeller’s life-long commitment to making areas of natural scenic beauty accessible to the public. He strongly believed that nature has the power to restore and sustain the human spirit. It was his hope that, by experiencing this spiritual and emotional renewal, visitors to the Preserve would become aware of the importance of nature in their own lives and acknowledge their roles in acting as good stewards of the land.

During the Saturday ceremony, Lucy Rockefeller Waletzky said her father thought of “mind-body-spirit as one word,” because people would be “physically and emotionally renewed at the same time.” Clayton Wesley Frye, longtime senior associate of Mr. Rockefeller, stated that Laurance was the “intellectual father” of the Preserve, and he prioritized “removing the hand of man” to return the Preserve to its natural state. John Turner told of floating the Snake River with Laurance and Mary Rockefeller “on a beautiful fall day with blazing colors,” and having Mr. Rockefeller hint at his desire to return the JY Ranch to its natural condition. Turner went on to say that “Laurance hoped people would restore their spirits in the wilderness setting.”

Mr. Rockefeller also believed that managing natural areas requires a careful balance between preservation and public access. This balance is consistent with the mission of the National Park Service, which will manage the Preserve in such a way as to allow for public enjoyment of the place while preventing overcrowding and overuse of the trails and rest areas. In this way, the opportunity for visitors to experience the extraordinary beauty of the area will be available to future generations.

The primary visitor experience at the Preserve is hiking a network of trails that provides access to views of Phelps Lake and the Tetons, as well as other scenic and ecological features. This experience is supported by the newly opened Center, which orients visitors and provides a series of sensory exhibits designed to make visitors more aware of nature on many levels.

The Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center is situated to capture views of the Teton Range, and the interpretive experience within the building has been carefully choreographed to make visitors more aware of natural elements found on the Preserve. Visitors move through a series of sensory experiences linked with a poem by esteemed nature writer Terry Tempest Williams. These visual, auditory and tactile explorations include recordings of Mr. Rockefeller speaking about conservation, high definition nature videos, large-scale photography, and a soundscape room with nature recordings from the Preserve. There is also a resource room that provides a place for visitors to relax and learn about the Preserve. Comfortable seating, tables, chairs and a fireplace invite visitors to sit and explore books, albums and maps. The Center and restroom buildings were designed and constructed to be a model National Park Service facility by using the latest environmental technologies and sustainable techniques. A brochure explaining these attributes is available at the orientation desk in the Preserve Center.

The 8-mile trail network has been carefully designed to lead visitors on self-directed hikes to the most scenic and ecologically significant areas of the Preserve, including Lake Creek, Phelps Lake and the adjacent ridges. Visitors walking the 2.5-mile primary loop experience views of Phelps Lake and the Teton Range from a series of rest areas where they may sit and enjoy the views, observe wildlife and touch the water. Over 5 miles of secondary trails lead visitors through remote areas of the Preserve and to a series of overlooks along the glacial ridges. The network also includes a .3-mile accessible trail that provides an opportunity for visitors with limited mobility to experience the Lake Creek riparian community.

The Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve is the former JY Ranch and served as a longtime summer retreat for the Rockefeller family. Between July 2004 and May 2007, thirty buildings, as well as the roads, utilities and other structures were removed, and the developed areas were reclaimed to blend with the natural landscape. Approximately half of the structures, including the oldest residential cabins and dining and recreation buildings, were moved to a new family property outside Grand Teton National Park. The remaining structures were donated to the Park Service for housing and service facilities at several sites within the park. The extensive reclamation enhanced wildlife habitat, reduced non-native vegetation, and reconnected fragmented wetlands.
The Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve is open to the public seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors can call 307.739.3654 for information on programs or facilities.

For digital images of the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center and property, please go online to and search for "Rockefeller Preserve."