Event Dome Concept

Robson Conservatory & Botanical Gardens

A  thriving tropical flora & fauna featuring exotic trees, plants, animals, birds and butterflies in a natural setting
of waterfalls, ponds, mists and appropriate humidity that will bring teeming vitality to this living laboratory



Conservatory & Botanical Garden
Statement of Need

Most of the original grants and charters for New Jersey mention agriculture as the main industry and purpose of settlement. Many of the early colonists of New Jersey were Swedish, Dutch, English, or Scotch. William Franklin, the son of Benjamin, was the last colonial governor of New Jersey. In 1765 he induced the Assembly to grant bounties to encourage the raising of hemp, flax, and the culture of silk for exportation to England, including the planting of mulberry trees for the food of the silkworms. In 1766 during his administration Queen's College was founded, later to become Rutgers the states agricultural college.

In the late 1780's the Burlington Society for Promoting Agriculture and Domestic Manufactures was founded. It's purpose was to "give a careful attention to increase the products of our lands, and to promote those objects of domestic manufacture immediately connected with and dependent on agriculture which will greatly tend to increase the prosperity of our state."

During the last two decades countless articles, documentaries and movies have chronicled environmental destruction. Only in recent years have we come to understand the true complexity of our environment and the urgent need for conservation and preservation. Many have at least, a vague idea of what the flora & fauna do for our environment and indeed for our very existence.


ROBSON Conservatory & Botanical Gardens

A turnkey 80,000 square foot exhibit and botanical gardens.

Since a personal visit to the tropics is not an option for most people, the best vehicle to deliver environmental education is a project like the one being developed and undertaken by Messengers of Peace. As an organization dedicated to public understanding and appreciation of the world & universe that we live in, it has the potential for a very substantial impact upon our collective knowledge and awareness of what we need to do to help. In the environment to be

created by ROBSON, visitors will be able to feel, see, touch, and experience flora & fauna the same as if they were in nature. ROBSON'S facilities will explain the dynamics, the flora, and the interdependent relationships of, and within nature.

Combining the allure of a tropical eco-system reproduced in full scale, with an extensive horticultural educational opportunity, Robson Conservatory and Botanical Gardens will be a world-class horticultural research and educational facility.

Through horticultural and biological research, and education, we promote a pesticide and chemical-free environment for the health and well-being of all living things. The focus of attention for both visitors and students will be a ninety thousand square foot walk through educational adventure. The conservatory will house a thriving tropical flora & fauna featuring exotic trees, plants, animals, birds and butterflies in a natural setting of waterfalls, ponds, mists and appropriate humidity that will bring teeming vitality to this living laboratory.

The tourist facilities at Robson Conservatory and Botanical Gardens will be open every day throughout the year with minimal admission fee. The facility will be staffed with student, full, and part time employees, plus volunteers and docents. Emphasis throughout will be on education, both formal and informal. Displays and interactive workstations within the conservatory will help guide visitors and students to understand and appreciate the beauty, diversity, complexity, benefits and fragile vulnerability of the world's eco-systems.

Outside in the botanical gardens the landscape will feature a wide variety of trees and plants internationally cultivated. Educational panels will inform visitors of the horticultural and common names of the plants and the care required to incorporate them into their home garden collections. Both areas will serve as living research and landscaping laboratories for the students enrolled in Burlington County College, New Jersey Institute of Technology, and Rutgers University horticulture education programs.

Located in Burlington County New Jersey, Robson Conservatory will be uniquely designed to combine what soon will be Burlington County s fastest growing industry, EDU-TAINMENT (educational nature-science-technology entertainment) based tourism and a school of horticulture, into a viable symbiotic whole. Hands-on vocational training programs will provide skilled greenhouse operations personnel to the horticulture industry statewide.

In line with Robson's conservation and research, students will learn and practice only FIBC (Fully Integrated Biological Control), the only form of insect pest management utilizing no chemicals or pesticides.

Students who enroll in the areas schools of Horticulture will benefit from extensive

hands-on experience. Landscape design and maintenance classes will create the flourishing botanical displays inside and out. An internship program leading to certification and employment in the commercial horticultural industry will be conducted year-around in the conservatory and on the grounds of the facility.

The working science of horticulture; gene-splicing, cloning, hybridizing and more will be on display for tourists as guided tours take visitors into research labs, and growing facilities. The tours will end in an attractive sales area where plants and other related products can be purchased. Proceeds will help sustain operational costs of the facility.

A Visitor's Experience

Be sure to bring your camera! From the moment you enter the grounds of this world-class educational facility, you know you are someplace uniquely different and exciting. Walking toward the entrance you see a gleaming glass edifice rising out of a landscape lush with a riot of seasonal plants in bloom and dancing fountains. As you get closer the views are tempered by the serenity of murmuring waterfalls and quiet pools, preparing you to experience a day of relaxed pleasure.

As you enter the main lobby an attractive graphic familiarizes you with the facility, showing you the location of exhibits, theaters, restaurant, book and gift shops, tour routes and schedules. From the lobby area you begin your tour through the exhibits that are designed to entice you on to enjoy unique attractions around every corner.

The use of appropriate environmental sounds in each exhibit area creates a sense of realism. Comfortable seating is available along the way to allow adequate time for leisurely enjoyment. You exit the interpretive area into one of two theaters showing a variety of short movies about Rainforest, horticultural, global weather and many other subjects.

A short movie illustrates the wonders of the earth followed by another that gives you a contrasting and realistic view of the effects of deforestation. The movies are designed to help you understand the global effects of, and the critical need to help save, the environment.

While in the theater, the temperature and humidity slowly rise acclimating you to the rainforest-like environment within the main conservatory. You leave the theater through double air-lock doors where you begin your journey through a dimly lit cave emerging behind a thirty-foot waterfall into a tropical Indonesian rainforest. A forest replete with indigenous trees, plants, birds, butterflies, small mammals etc. A watercourse complete with waterfalls runs throughout the lower levels adding to the beauty, sounds and requisite humidity the environment requires.

The ecosystems simulated are designed to portray plants and animals in their natural environment. The conservatory format allows you to view various levels of the ecology, each level featuring it's own unique flora and fauna. We endeavor to create surprises around every bend in the path and at every level. Cut-aways or caves provide viewing ports to observe aquatic animals, fish and other specimens not suited to free range display within the conservatory. All pathways, railings and sitting areas are designed to blend into the natural setting.

After a leisurely tour of the conservatory you may exit back to the main lobby. You can browse the bookstore and gift shop or take a lunch break in the international food court before beginning a self guided tour of the botanical gardens around the conservatory.

Formal plantings, specimen gardens, and natural landscaping entice you to extend your exploration outdoors. Asphalt paths and ramps provide wheelchair access to all areas of the facility. Your tour will be educational as well meditative. Formal gardens feature many of the beautiful flowers, shrubs and trees that can be grown in your own garden.

Informal planting areas feature local flora native to the area. Display plantings educate you regarding the identification and uses of many varieties of medicinal plants. A separate children's garden offers a hands-on, planting experience to teach them proper planting and care methods for seeds and plants.

Portions of the educational facility and future adjacent greenhouse growing complex are also open for your inspection. This area features guided tours through the laboratory and teaching areas. Viewing windows are provided where, at times, you may observe researchers and student technicians in the gene splicing and cloning laboratories using various methods to preserve and propagate some of earth's rare and endangered species.

When you finish your tour, we hope you not only enjoyed your journey immensely, but also feel educated, appreciative and motivated. We look forward to welcoming you as our newest member, ready to do what you can to preserve, protect and conserve our environmental heritage.

Please note! The preceding story line represents an initial attempt to describe some of the experiences visitors to ROBSON Conservatory and Botanical Gardens may encounter during a typical visit. This first glimpse into the ever expanding and changing imagination of the designers is offered to give you a general flavor of the conservatory concept. As designs and construction progress a new dynamic evolution of ideas will be adopted and others changed or discarded. Some displays will be scheduled for change on a regular basis to encourage multiple visits, and to provide ample hands-on experience for the landscape technicians in training to perfect their skills.

Levels Of Learning

We all vary in our level of education, attention span, interests, outlooks and about everything else we can think of. Thus, exhibits and their explanatory graphics must be designed in such a way that they do not intimidate those with rudimentary education and reading skills nor "baby talk" to those with more advanced training.

In response to this diversity of need, exhibit copy shall be written at an 8th grade reading level. Copy will begin with a headline statement encapsulating the theme of the exhibit, followed by a few brief sentences that explain the principles interpreted. In the body of the exhibit may be further interpretive copy, but never over a short paragraph in length in one place. Additional information for those with a more in-depth interest will be made available in the reading and reference area.

Multilingual Interpretation

As our society becomes increasingly diverse and multilingual, the challenge of effective communication becomes progressively more complex. Studies have shown that, as mentioned above, large bodies of exhibit copy are intimidating to the visitor. Multilanguage exhibits texts have the potential to become a veritable Tower of Babel. Forthis reason foreign language translations of exhibit content will be put in brochure form, number-keyed to the exhibits and made available to those requiring the

School Of Horticulture

Working towards an Environmentally Safe Pest Control, the Burlington County College School of Horticulture will be the first to completely develop, utilize and teach only FIBC (Fully Integrated Biological Control) for insect pest management. Research and Development in the field of biological insect control for large scale management of horticulture crops, using organic pesticide, parasitoids, predators and pathogens, plant rotation and integration, will be at the forefront of the horticulture research and educational programs utilizing this facility. Here students will receive expansive hands-on experience with every phase of production for all commonly grown ornamental horticultural crops.

Various growing systems and techniques will be used to familiarize the students with all possible growing conditions and situations. State-of-the-art technology will be utilized throughout. An Ebb-and-Flow watering system will be built into the complex. This is a closed-system form of irrigation that recycles water and fertilizers, eliminating any possibility of groundwater contamination. A high efficiency hot water heating system installed in the floor will provide for perfect year-round growing conditions. Greenhouse functions will be controlled by the latest in electronic and computerized systems.

An internship program will be integrated with classroom and laboratory instruction from the first to the last week of the two-year program. The various crops produced will be sold at current market value. Revenues produced will be used to keep the facility equipped with the latest advances in equipment for student familiarization (potting machinery, fertilizer injector systems, heating, cooling, lighting, etc.)

Reproduction & Research Laboratories

Here students will learn and perfect cellular methods of plant propagation. This asexual method of reproduction will be utilized to propagate rare and endangered species or those plants which are difficult to propagate under normal conditions. Tissue culture (cloning) has become popular in commercial horticulture, as cloned plants are identical in every aspect to the parent plant. High quality hybrids produced by normal means are selected for mass propagation by cloning.

A classroom(s) building will complete the formal educational facility. These classrooms may also be utilized for evening classes or workshops.

Conservatory & Botanical Garden

Informal Education

Through the use of staff and guest speakers, Robson will actively participate in holding horticultural workshops, seminars, and lectures. We may also host shows and various displays by local horticultural societies and garden clubs.

Robson will work with local educators at various grade levels to develop educational programs and curriculum in the fields of horticulture and conservation. Class field trips to the conservatory would also offer an opportunity to participate "behind the scenes" with staff and volunteers.



Overview and Course Descriptions


Responding to the deep concern of the community in recognizing the limited opportunities for youth in Burlington County and neighboring communities, Robson Conservatory will initiate a Youth Horticulture/Agriculture Program. Robson's program will provide the opportunity to learn and practice horticultural and agricultural growing techniques, provide for lifetime skills and a possibility of self-employment opportunities when not in school, when youths are at greatest risk.

A planned 40,000 sq. ft. conservatory, and a 2,500 sq. ft. classroom building will complete the physical plant. The conservatory will help provide the proper environment for learning horticultural greenhouse production during the off seasons and the classroom building will provide a Learning Center for related classes. This Learning Center will house a library/reading room, laboratory (for instruction in tissue culture techniques) and two classrooms. This facility would also be available for local area garden clubs for their meetings and related gardening projects.

Students will participate in the program 9 months of the year, 4 days a week, 2 hours a day. Sessions will be limited to 20 students per class. Utilizing a state certified instructor and certified programs could allow students to earn high school credits toward graduation. Instruction will be given that covers all phases of light horticultural & agricultural production from ground preparation, planting, maintaining and harvesting, to marketing. Select classes, presented by the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station and Burlington County College, and others, dealing with pest management, food preservation, etc. will be open to the public.

An adult session will parallel the youth classes for anyone 19 years and older, seeking retraining from one of several declining industries in the area. Interested community members may take individual classes, and garden plots will be available for youth and adult students for their personal use.

A mentor program with local seniors will be developed to allow interaction between the generations to help enlarge the community spirit of cooperation, understanding and education that benefits the community at large.

Some participants, youth or adult, will hopefully continue on to make this their vocation of choice. Horticulture and gardening are essential to keeping New Jersey the Garden State that we have become known to, and will soon be one of the largest and fastest growing industries in New Jersey, the opportunities for family wage level jobs will be available and in demand.

Course Description

Plant Cultural Practices
Care & management of ornamental and food producing plants, landscape plants and gardens, including watering, fertilizing, pest control, and harvesting.

Plant Propagation
Techniques for reproducing plants from seeds, cuttings, and grafting.

Plant Tissue Culture
Principles, methods and applications of plant tissue a cell culture topics will include callus culture, regeneration and micro-propagation.

Tree and Shrub Pruning
Pruning of woody ornamentals, fruit plants, vines and ground covers. Training of fruit and ornamental trees and shrubs.

Greenhouse Operation and Maintenance
Controlled environment maintenance for crops Integrated systems management for highly controlled crop production, watering, heating, lighting, air, movement, soil mixes, fertilizing , pest management growth regulators.

3) After Effects
The most important things that will happen when this program is initiated are (a) Provide life-skills for students who do not have trade classes in their high school curriculum. (b) Help provide self-employment opportunities for youth to earn an income during the summer months when youths are at greatest risk with nothing to occupy their time. (c) The re-education of displaced workers seeking retraining from one of several declining industries in New Jersey.

United States Department of Agriculture
Strategic Plan 2002–2007

Strategic Goal number one seeks to enhance economic opportunities for agricultural producers. Expanding markets for agricultural products is critical to the long-term economic health and prosperity of our food and agricultural sector. U.S. farmers have a wealth of natural resources, cutting edge technologies, and a supporting infrastructure that result in a production capacity beyond domestic needs. This capacity can be used in expanding global markets and in the development of new uses for agriculture in industrial and pharmaceutical markets.

State of New Jersey 2004 Horticulture
Economic Development Strategies

Horticulture, New Jersey’s leading agricultural sector, represents almost 40 percent of the state’s agricultural production with more than $327 million in cash receipts.

The 2003 strategies greatly expanded the television advertising of New Jersey horticultural products through the "Jersey Fresh" marketing program and saw the development of the "Jersey Grown" quality-grading program along with an upgraded retail nursery and garden center listing on the Jersey Fresh website.

To increase demand for New Jersey nursery stock, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture is continuing to expand the "Jersey Fresh" marketing program to include more horticultural crops. In addition to cut flowers the Department is currently seeking to expand the "Jersey Fresh" quality inspection program to a wider range of horticultural products.

The Department will continue to inspect and certify nurseries, enabling growers to sell certified disease-free material in and out of state, and conduct seed certification and seed control testing programs to ensure high quality turf grass seed for New Jersey sod growers.

In 2004 the Department’s horticultural economic development strategies will be focusing on implementing the "Jersey Grown" quality grading program and expanding promotion of the industry through the "Jersey Fresh" program improving, the horticultural presence on Department website, and continuing inspections for harmful pests, and certifying seed.


Ensure Plant Health

STRATEGY – Work to have a comprehensive approach to ensuring plant health. The following methods to be employed include:
- Continue inspections for harmful pests and disease.
- Seek ways to increase use of beneficial insects.
- Inspect and certify nurseries, enabling growers to sell certified disease-free material in and out of state.
- Conduct seed certification and seed control testing programs to ensure high quality turf grass seed for New Jersey sod growers.
- Encourage the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station to continue its research in identifying new varieties of agricultural products resistant to pests, diseases and new plant introductions.
- Identify and develop new methods of pest control.

STRATEGY- Work with the Nursery and Landscape Industry, the NJ Dept. of Environmental Protection, and the Department’s Agricultural Water Working Group prior to future drought emergencies, to develop drought emergency water use restrictions. Work toward establishing a drought emergency protocol for implementation of predictable, effective and sound restrictions for future emergencies.

Increase Consumer Awareness

STRATEGY - Continue work to establish a "Jersey Grown" brand name to enable the industry to benefit from a common trademark identifying locally produced products.
- Work with independent garden centers and nurseries to strengthen their efforts to promote "Jersey Grown" products through the use of point of sale advertising such as product stickers, labels, tags and signage.
- Continue to include horticultural crops in the "Jersey Fresh" marketing program.
- Maintain the retail nurseries and garden center listings on the "Jersey Fresh" website and add a listing of links to area horticultural display gardens.
- Continue seasonal marketing programs, such as "Fall is for Planting."

STRATEGY - Develop fact sheets and/or articles of interest to educate and inform consumers about the availability, variety and use of "Jersey Grown" horticultural products. Work with the New Jersey Nursery and Landscape Association to distribute fact sheets and horticultural articles of interest.

STRATEGY –Work with the State Board of Agriculture to seek adoption of "Jersey Grown" quality standards for horticultural crops other than nursery. The proposed Administrative Law 2:7 1-7 is scheduled to be published for comments in February 2004.

Improve State and Public Contract Requirements

STRATEGY- Encourage state agencies, including the Department of Transportation, through its highway planting program, and the Department of Environmental Protection, through its forestry program, to use New Jersey produced products whenever possible and ensure that all products meet the pest free standards of the New Jersey Nursery Law and satisfy the quality standards set by the Jersey Grown Rule as established by the Department.

 STRATEGY - Lead in the use of Jersey produced plant material in bioengineering and cost share projects supported by the Soil Conservation Service.

STRATEGY - Explore the feasibility of creating a program to recognize outstanding uses of "Jersey Grown" nursery material grown and used in the state. A comprehensive award program that promotes both growers and end users of "Jersey Grown" nursery products will create increased awareness of the ornamental horticulture industry in the state.

Burlington County Agricultural Resource Management

While agriculture is a key part of Burlington County's heritage and future, it has been said that "maintaining farm viability while balancing the interests of both the agricultural and suburban communities is a monumental task", yet with all of it’s challenges Burlington County is still one of the largest agricultural counties in New Jersey, producing over 60 million dollars in crop and livestock. Burlington County ranks among the top three counties in the United States in some areas of agriculture.

Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Burlington County agricultural agents work with commodity groups, government agencies, and the agricultural community to conserve and manage natural resources, promote agriculture, and maintain a healthy environment for all Burlington County residents, but our communities still falls short in newer Edu-Tainment resources that have been proven to be more successful in creating genuine interest and understanding.

The importance of this kind of education cannot be overstated. With a better-informed public, we can work together for the development of sustainable environments to the benefit of man and, his economic development.