Historic Sea Scout building transforming into 'EcoCenter'

Environmental Volunteers receives $146,000 to continue restoration of future headquarters

The nonprofit Environmental Volunteers has been given a $146,000 grant from the Santa Clara County Historical Heritage Commission to restore the exterior of the historical former Sea Scouts building in the Palo Alto Baylands, it was announced Monday (Feb. 14).

The boat-shaped building, designed in 1941 and used as the local base for the Sea Scouts before abandonment two decades ago, will be given a second life and a new name when it becomes the new headquarters for Environmental Volunteers.

"Our vision is that the 'EcoCenter' will be a community resource for environmental education and that it will teach inside and out," Allan Berkowitz, executive director for Environmental Volunteers, said.

The grant enables Environmental Volunteers to restore the lower "Promenade Deck" and the upper "Bridge Deck." Contractors will restore the deck's carpentry and fabricate custom railings that both meet safety codes and replicate the historical look of the original railings.

Visitors to the preserves and Bay Trail currently must leave the trail and return to the road, as the abandoned building broke up the trail, Berkowitz noted. The lower deck will be handicap accessible.

"As part of our project (to restore the lower deck), we're reconnecting the Bay Trail. It's going to enhance visitors' enjoyment of both the Bay Trail and the preserve, because the decks are right over the marshes. As you go over the deck, you're going to have an opportunity to observe the flora and fauna of the Bay," he said.

The completed upper decks will provide a birds-eye view of the Bay as well as a view of the birds, Berkowitz said.

"The upper deck, because it's open-air, has an absolutely incredible view of the bay and will be a great opportunity for bird-watching," he said.

The restoration project, which began in 2008 and is projected to be completed in 2013, is already 75 percent finished. Mayor Sid Espinosa and Santa Clara County Supervisor Liz Kniss will tour the facilities and see the progress made in Environmental Volunteers' restoration efforts on Feb. 28 at 11:30 a.m.

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