Under clear, crisp, early morning autumn skies, with a backdrop of a wooded habitat nestled in the urban environment, the expanded Jerome "Buddie" Ford Nature Center at William Ramsey Elementary School was officially dedicated last Saturday.
"This is an exciting day, not only for us but for the entire Ford family," said Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille.
As a joint endeavor between the Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs and Alexandria City Public Schools, the center was first dedicated in 1997 and named for Ford, to honor his 47-year career with the City. At the time of his retirement, he was Special Programs Division Chief for the parks and recreation department. The Center was part of his division.
"I am sure that if Buddie were here today, he would be very proud to see of all you here to celebrate this occasion," said his widow Ermine. Ford died in 1997.
Joining in the rededication ceremony of the expanded Center were Vice Mayor Redella "Del" Pepper; City Council members Ludwig Gaines, Andrew Macdonald and Rob Krupicka; School Board President Molly Danforth and ACPS Superintendent Rebecca Perry; Kirk Kincannon, director, RP&CA Department, and Judy Guse-Noritake, chair, Parks and Recreation Commission; and Elsie Metzelar, Friends of the Ford Nature Center.
"This new wing contains nine new resource rooms and the Center. It is an example of how we have reconfigured our schools to reflect today's teaching methods," Danforth said. "This shows what can happen when there is cooperation in this city," Perry added.
"We hope that these nature programs will continue to be expanded. We share together the future of our children," Noritake said.
Prior to officially cutting the ribbon, Anthony Maize, sang an a capella version of "This Land" which he introduced by saying, "I'll let the words of this song express my feelings."
A new addition to the Center is a portrait of Ford just inside the main entrance. In unveiling the painting, joined by members of the Ford family, Euille said, "We can never say enough about a person that was as well-liked as Buddie Ford. Everything about his life he enjoyed sharing with everyone. He believed it's better to heal the child than have to repair the man."
In 2000 City Council approved funds for expansion of the Center that consisted of a gymnasium, game room and a one-room Nature Center. The popularity of the Center called for the current expansion and renovation, according to City officials.
The new Center includes nine classrooms with a shared science room, expanded exhibit gallery, greenhouse laboratory, meeting room, and additional space for increased programs and learning opportunities. It consists of two floors with a two story first floor gallery that opens onto an outside deck overlooking Holmes Run Park.
Included with the first level Gallery are three classrooms, the shared science room, main lobby, reading area, project room, and greenhouse. On the second level are six additional classrooms.