Letchworth State Park and the State University of New York (SUNY) at Geneseo announced the formation of a formal partnership aimed at providing greater hands-on educational experiences and research opportunities at the new Letchworth Nature Center. As part of the five-year cooperative agreement, the college will help develop and identify educational opportunities, research and environmental restoration projects, programming, and exhibits at the new center.
The new state-of-the-art Letchworth Nature Center is a centerpiece project of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's NY Parks 2020 initiative. With construction set to begin this spring, the Letchworth Nature Center will serve as a welcoming gateway and educate visitors to the park's natural offerings, rich geological history and diverse ecosystems.
"In all seasons and settings, parks can be the greatest classrooms - facilitating hands-on connections and a deeper appreciation for our valuable natural resources," said State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. "With spectacular scenery, magnificent waterfalls, and rich geological and cultural history, Letchworth State Park offers infinite opportunities for exploring diverse interests. I'm so pleased this partnership will encourage students to enhance their education through studying and experiencing New York's natural world."
The agreement not only adds another layer to the center's educational mission, it also continues the public-private model being used to build the new facility. To date, approximately $1.7 million has been raised toward a $2 million private fundraising goal for the project - thanks to the efforts of the Campaign for the Letchworth Nature Center and the many generous donors who have given to the project.
"The partnership between Letchworth State Park and SUNY Geneseo underscores the significance of this remarkable natural landscape. The Nature Center will encourage the public to learn about and fully appreciate this park's resources and history, and ultimately lead to a renewed commitment to environmental stewardship and education," said Peter Humphrey, chair of the Letchworth Nature Center Campaign Committee.
Letchworth State Park and SUNY Geneseo have already been working together informally for many years. The college has long utilized Letchworth as a teaching tool for its environmental studies program, using the park's unique geographic features to fuel student research projects and aid in data collection. Letchworth has also benefited from student assistance through park internships, and work/study programs.
"I am delighted to see the formal establishment of this partnership between Geneseo and Letchworth State Park," said Interim SUNY Geneseo President Carol Long. "The agreement will open the door for additional exciting applied research and learning opportunities for our students, and we are pleased to share these experiences with our community."
As a year-round American with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant and sustainable facility, the center will provide a more formal educational setting for Geneseo students to continue their research and instruction. Students will benefit from the inclusion of state-of-the-art classroom space, a butterfly and biosphere garden, and specialized exhibitry detailing the natural diversity of Letchworth State Park.
As part of the new partnership agreed upon in a Memorandum of Understanding, SUNY Geneseo will provide up to $75,000 in teaching, display, and research equipment to be used in the Nature Center and in research projects undertaken by students at the college and Letchworth State Park staff. An advisory committee will oversee design elements and contributions from the university as construction plans for the center move forward.
The committee will include:
- Richard Parker, Genesee rregional Director
- Roland Beck, Letchworth State Park Manager
- Brian Scriven, Historic Site Manager
- Douglass Bassett, Environmental Educator
- Jim Kernan, Assistant Professor of Geography, SUNY Geneseo
- Kristi Hannam, Assoc. Professor of Biology, SUNY Geneseo
- Nicholas Warner, Assist. Professor Planetary Geology, SUNY Geneseo
- Russell Judkins , Associate Professor of Anthropology, SUNY Geneseo
- Dennis Showers, Distinguished Service Professor / School of Education, SUNY Geneseo
- Jordan Kleiman, Associate Professor of History, SUNY Geneseo
- Dan DeZarn, Director of Sustainability, SUNY Geneseo
- Sue Ann Brainard, Reference and Instruction Librarian, SUNY Geneseo
- Erica Leicht, Student, SUNY Geneseo
"The SUNY Geneseo/Letchworth State Park partnership will offer countless learning and service opportunities," said Jim Kernan, assistant professor of geography at SUNY Geneseo and advisory committee member. "Many students have already been involved in park projects, and completed research studies that they have presented at academic conferences. We expect that many more students will be able to study, volunteer, and learn in Letchworth State Park in the future. The Nature Center will enrich their learning experiences and better prepare them for graduate studies, careers, and engaged citizenship."
The Letchworth Nature Center is expected to break ground in May 2015. To learn more about the nature center, or to support the Campaign for the Letchworth Nature Center by donating, visit:www.letchworthnaturecenter.org.