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Easter Island's Visitor's Center

You can't get much farther away than Easter Island, a volcanic island in the Pacific Ocean at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian triangle. I hope to go one day; and if/when I do, I'll be curious to check out this new sustainable visitor's center that just opened in Orongo, the most-visited place on Easter Island.

easter island east side1
Country: Chile Site: Easter Island, Orongo Caption: Visitor Center east side Image Date: February 2011 Photographer: Eduardo Villafranca , CONAF/World Monuments Fund Provenance: Site Visit Original: from Sharefile

Officially named the Centro de Recepción de Visitantes de la Aldea Ceremonial de Orongo, the visitor's center is an effort to "demonstrate how preservation work goes hand in hand with educating tourists and helping local communities to develop long-term strategies to manage sensitive sites such as Orongo," says Bonnie Burnham, President of the World Monuments Fund. The WMF helped develop the center (which is managed by CONAF) and has worked on preservation projects on the island since the late 1960's.

Here's a view of the Visitor Center under construction, in October 2010. You can see the shell of the original warden's station. Photo by Eduardo Villafrana/World Monuments Fund.
Here's a view of the Visitor Center under construction, in October 2010. You can see the shell of the original warden's station. Photo by Eduardo Villafrana/World Monuments Fund.

The goal was to create a green building, and a model for sustainable visitor's centers around the globe. To that end, it's built around an existing structure, a former warden station. The original construction materials were recycled and incorporated into the new building; solar and wind energy were added to power the structure; and there are composting toilets and a rainwater recycling system in the restrooms.

The center's southeast corner is dedicated to a small solar array, which provides the needed electrical power. Photo by Eduardo Villafranca, CONAF/World Monuments Fund.
The center's southeast corner is dedicated to a small solar array, which provides the needed electrical power. Photo by Eduardo Villafranca, CONAF/World Monuments Fund.

The center is located at the entrance to the Orongo Ceremonial Village, one of the most significant archaeological sites in Rapa Nui National Park. Its purpose is to introduce visitors to the park, providing information and educational materials, while at the same time encouraging visitors to respect the natural and cultural heritage of the place. Its underlying goal is sustainable tourism—helping to monitor and manage visitation to the fragile and much-trodden site.

Easter Island is most famous for the hundreds of large carved monolithic statues, known as moai, that were created to represent ancestors by the Rapa Nui people from approximately the ninth to the seventeenth centuries AD.
Easter Island is most famous for the hundreds of large carved monolithic statues, known as moai, that were created to represent ancestors by the Rapa Nui people from approximately the ninth to the seventeenth centuries AD.
This is the main access ramp and front door of the completed center, looking east. Photo by Eduardo Villafranca, CONAF/World Monuments Fund.
This is the main access ramp and front door of the completed center, looking east. Photo by Eduardo Villafranca, CONAF/World Monuments Fund.
It's just one of the WMF's efforts to balance conservation and tourism at sites around the world. You can learn more about their efforts here, and take a "sustainable tourism pledge" here.

The island is also known for its many archaeological sites, which offer evidence of a highly developed culture—whose descendants still inhabit the island.
The island is also known for its many archaeological sites, which offer evidence of a highly developed culture—whose descendants still inhabit the island.

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