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Great Lakes Article:

Presque Isle nature center named for former Gov. Ridge

ERIE (AP) - Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge returned to his hometown to dedicate a nature center bearing his name at a state park he once called the "jewel of the park system."

Ridge's successor, Gov. Mark Schweiker, joined the former governor Monday to dedicate the 58,000-square foot Tom Ridge Center at Presque Isle State Park.

Ridge gave $25 million in state money for the center - the largest sum allotted to a state park during his administration - on his final day as governor before leaving for Washington, D.C.

"I've spent my lifetime here, from summers working as an adolescent, to weekends spent with my family, to officials visits as governor," Ridge said. "I will never grow tired of this park and its unique beauty."

The multilevel center, which will be located just outside the park entrance, will mimic the boomerang shape of the park, which protrudes into Presque Isle Bay in Lake Erie. Construction, which began in October, is expected to be finished in 2004.

The building will provide information for park visitors, including eco-tourists taking cruises of the Great Lakes. It also will be used for research by local colleges, including Edinboro University, the Penn State-Behrend campus and the Pennsylvania Sea Grant, which monitors the lake.

In a nod to an environmental program started by Ridge in 1993 - "Growing Greener" - the center will be heated by passive solar heat. A 70-foot observation tower will serve as a solar collector and ventilator to distribute air through the building.

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