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Wednesday, April 16, 2014 6:16 PM

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Accokeek-based environmental organization breaks ground on 'living' watershed educational facility


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Photo by Tauren Dyson. Heather Hills Elementary School fifth-grader Owen Ziegler, second from right, joins local and state officials, including Senate President Mike Miller, third from left; County Executive Rushern Baker, center, and Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, thrid from right, for the Alice Ferguson Foundation's Potomac Watershed Study Center groundbreaking Thursday, April 25, 2013, at Hard Bargain Farm in Accokeek.

Photo by Tauren Dyson. Heather Hills Elementary School fifth-grader Owen Ziegler, second from right, joins local and state officials, including Senate President Mike Miller, third from left; County Executive Rushern Baker, center, and Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, thrid from right, for the Alice Ferguson Foundation's Potomac Watershed Study Center groundbreaking Thursday, April 25, 2013, at Hard Bargain Farm in Accokeek.

Published on: Wednesday, May 01, 2013

By Tauren Dyson

The groundbreaking for the Potomac Watershed Study Center at the Alice Ferguson Foundation's Hard Bargain Farm, which sits on the Potomac River in Accokeek, revealed a love for nature preservation in everyone in attendance — particularly from young Prince Georgians.

“The Potomac Watershed Study Center sounds like … a cool place to visit and learn about protecting our environment and learn about protecting our carbon footprint,” said Owen Ziegler, Heather Hills Elementary School fifth-grader. “Many of my friends have never had a chance to get out into the woods or see farm animals up close.”

The planned Potomac Watershed Study Center will be an eco-friendly mixed-use facility that provides a space for people of all ages to learn about the importance of maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Alice Ferguson Foundation officials know that teaching about energy conservation means showing students firsthand how the process works.

Grass Day-Use building, will harness 100 percent of its power from solar sources and channel all of its water from annual rainfall, making it the only “Living Building” in the state and one of only a few in the world.

Photo courtesy of Alice Ferguson Foundation. This rendering of the planned Potomac Watershed Study Center shows the solar panels that will power the "Living Building." It will be the only "Living Building" in Maryland and one of only a few worldwide.

Photo courtesy of Alice Ferguson Foundation. This rendering of the planned Potomac Watershed Study Center shows the solar panels that will power the "Living Building." It will be the only "Living Building" in Maryland and one of only a few worldwide.

In addition to the study center, the project will include two self-sustaining living quarters for visiting adults and children and a boardwalk for visitors to walk on and to explore the wetlands throughout Hard Bargain Farm.

“Prince George’s County has a wide range of many wonderful points of interest and the addition of the ‘Living Building,’ one of few in the world, adds to the rich legacy of the Alice Ferguson Foundation and is certainly a proud and historic achievement for our county and country,” County Executive Rushern Baker said.

In much of urban and suburban Prince George’s, youth are deprived of opportunities to visit the county’s rural tier, in many cases because they are unaware it exists. County and state officials realize that ultimately, this leads to understanding of how nature truly affects their lives.

Earlier this year, Ziegler testified in front of the Maryland General Assembly about the importance of increasing funding for state education.

“The governor put into his budget, this year, about $50,000 in aid to education institutions, for this center, for the Alice Ferguson Foundation,” Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said. “Word is around Annapolis, Owen, that $50,000 grew to $80,000, because of you.”

The facility will costs more than $15 million to complete and much of that comes from Prince George’s County.

“We (Prince George’s County) put about $3 million into the Alice Ferguson Hard Bargain Farm,” Baker said. “We’re leading the way in Prince George’s County because of this building.”

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