|classroom facility at Prairie Ridge|
This is a satellite site of the NC Museum of Natural Sciences located near the RBC Center. The site is all outdoors which makes it a mistake to visit in 43 degree weather with overcast skies and a slight wind like today. The ecostation is a research facility of the NC Museum where they have recreated what early settlers to NC would have seen in terms of Piedmont prairie vegetation. When you stand on the ridge of the prairie you can almost imagine you're in an untouched wilderness, that is if it weren't for the I-40 noise and an unsightly high-rise office building marring the skyline.
The site contains a bird blind by a pond, a photovoltaic solar panel, windmill, garden, weather station, and a classroom facility which is built entirely of recycled materials. The trails are nice but you will get a workout pushing the stroller up and down the rolling landscape. A special note concerning strollers: use a jogging stroller or off-road type of stroller with large wheels since the trails are just flatened grass. My stroller, with its small wheels, treated the kids to every little bump in the trail which the kids made the most of by humming while they rode so that they could enjoy the staccato quality of their voices. Also, take it from me, it's a mistake to go here after there's been a lot of rain - unless you like getting your shoe stuck in the mud.
Getting to the Ecostation can be tricky. Immediately when you turn onto Reedy Creek Rd., start looking on the right for the small sign that looks more like an office park sign directing you to Prairie Ridge. Once you turn at the sign, be on the lookout again for another small sign on the right at the entrance to the Ecostation. Prairie Ridge is directly across the road from a US military facility.When you park your car don't bother going into the office building directly in front of you. It's a laboratory facility for the researchers that is not open to the public, as I found out. There is a trailer at the trailhead where Ecostation Guides can answer your questions.I would suspect that Prairie Ridge is really something to see in the Spring through the Fall when the prairie grass is in bloom and lots of critters are about.
This excursion taught me a little bit about my preschool-age daughter as well. She is not as outdoorsy as I thought she was. She prefers the creature comforts of climate control and, even at four, would probably have been happier to go to the mall than the Ecostation.