We got a sneak peek at the still-under-construction Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Visitor Center, and it’s amazing. The grand opening of the 17-acre complex on Route 335 near Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is planned for March 2017. While the buildings are nearly complete now, much work remains on fabricating the interactive exhibits and a 10-minute film.

The state park and visitor center focus on the theme of “the view north,” which relates to the journey north that enslaved people took to reach freedom in the 1800s. Everything from the location of the buildings to the exhibits tie in to the theme.

We saw a virtual tour of the 10,000-square-foot exhibit hall, and we think it’s bound to be enlightening and inspiring as stories of Harriet Tubman and other freedom seekers are shared in thought-provoking and interactive ways. The exhibits will touch on three main themes — the Choptank area and Harriet Tubman’s family, community, and faith; the Underground Railroad as a national resistance movement; and how Harriet Tubman is still relevant today.

The complex will also feature 3/4-mile in walking paths and a 2,600-square-foot outdoor pavilion, complete with fireplace, which will be available for rental for family reunions and other events. Also situated on the land will be offices for the Maryland Park Service, the National Park Service’s Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, and the Network to Freedom national headquarters.

The buildings are designed to earn the silver LEED certification with vegetative roofs, geothermal heating and cooling, permeable parking areas and paths, and solar-powered external lighting.

We were also impressed with the passion of the people building the center — expert craftsmen from around the world are working on this $21 million project that incorporates reclaimed barn wood, exposed timbers, stone, and views of the surrounding landscapes, which look much like they did in Harriet Tubman’s time.  We are hopeful that this new attraction in Dorchester County will draw people from all over the world.

Find out more on the Harriet Tubman State Park and Visitor Center website.

One of the goals of the new visitor center is to encourage people to get out and explore the historic sites that are part of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, a self-guided driving tour of more than 30 sites of historical significance in Dorchester and Caroline Counties.  You can explore the Byway now by ordering the free Map & Guide or picking it up at the Dorchester Visitor Center, 2 Rose Hill Place in Cambridge, Maryland. You can also download the excellent Audio Guide, which shares the stories of courage and selflessness in dramatic fashion. Keep up with the latest news about the Byway and the Visitor Center and State Park on the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway Facebook page.