The Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway site encompasses 90 acres of Forest Service land – 30 acres in the upper village and 60 acres in the lower valley. Built on a defunct golf course that had badly damaged the site, the Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway acts as an urban interface to introduce guests to the unique ecosystems of Mt. Charleston and the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area (SMNRA).
The project includes a Visitor Center, Education Building, trails for varied skill levels, picnic shelters and two amphitheaters. The Visitor Center and Education Building are both designed to deliver an inside-outside experience, creating a natural, holistic feel that honors the landscape.
Included in the Visitor Center are an information area, an interpretive gallery and a retail store. The gallery was designed for theatrical effect with suspended blue banners and decorative lights representing the sky. An audio experience of nature sounds suspends above a bench crafted from a 3,000-year-old Bristlecone Pine tree ring. The exhibits describe the seven ecological zones occurring in the SMNRA and their associated flora and fauna. The exhibits also describe the sustainable design process used in the building and the site.
Artwork provided by two local artists; Austine Wood Comarow, who design the polage at the on the interior windows of the visitor center, and Zak Ostrowski, who designed the free-standing benches and the mosaic tile installation at the small amphitheater.
A primary consideration was to maintain a positive connection with the seven nations of Nuwuvi (Southern Paiute) in the area. Encouraging tribal input and close cooperation throughout the design process was essential from the outset, as Mt. Charleston is considered the sacred birthplace of the Paiute people.