Lodgepole Visitor’s Center redesigns experience for guests

(Rigo Moran)

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks opens the Lodgepole Visitor’s Center’s doors to the public, celebrates with ribbon-cutting Aug. 4

SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARK –  After years of delays, the Lodgepole Visitor Center is finally looking to celebrate its reopening with its ribbon cutting on now that the redesigned facility is open to visitors.

After a multiyear closure, the redesign and exhibit installation at the Lodgepole Visitor Center in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks has been completed and the facility opened to the public on July 1. The ribbon-cutting event on Aug. 4, at 10:30 a.m. will be a celebration of the work that was done to overhaul the visitor center.

With so much damage and closures the last couple of years, it’s so nice to have good news and celebration,” chief of communications and management support at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Sintia C. Kawasaki-Yee said.

According to statements from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, the exhibits in Lodgepole Visitor Center were outdated and well beyond their planned lifespan. The building was made in the mid-1960s and the exhibits were made in the 1980s. They featured mostly text and black and white photos, which doesn’t meet today’s design standards.

There were also issues with the layout of the visitor’s center that made the redesign essential. Before the redesign, many of the functions of the visitor center were combined in the lobby, resulting in congestion in the space. The new design spreads functions through all three rooms, which spreads out the visitors and improves the use of space.

Now the visitor’s center offers exhibits that are engaging and interactive for all ages and abilities. The new exhibits focus on wilderness by offering an immersive look into park landscapes at different elevations, including alpine and subalpine environments that many park visitors might not be able to access on their own. There are tactile models of animals, soundscapes, and audio stories.

After years of planning, design, exhibit fabrication and installation, the Lodgepole Visitor’s Center was ready to open the facility to the public again. The facility started planning the redesign in 2017 and initially closed for construction in spring of 2020. Due to a number of unforeseen circumstances, the construction was postponed and didn’t finish until July 2023.

Work on the building that was needed to prepare for exhibit installation turned out to be more extensive than the parks originally thought, according to Kawasaki-Yee. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks generally avoid scheduling contractors during the wintertime, as snow and storms can delay work.

Since construction began in 2020, there were two large wildfires that cut off access to the building and delayed the redesign even more.

Lodgepole Visitor Center offers an in-depth experience for visitors. In addition to the new exhibits, there are trip-planning tools, films, a much bigger Park Store operated by Sequoia Parks Conservancy, and a place for backpackers to pick up wilderness permits. The main goals of the project was to improve visitor flow and to create an immersive and accessible experience for park visitors.

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