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Spring 2014: From the Director’s Desk

By Molly Farrell, Environmental Educator II

The warm reception I have received from Kim, the Friends Board, and other Park employees as I begin to acclimate to life at the Nature Center has made me feel welcomed and excited to be here.  I have enjoyed getting to know some of our dedicated volunteers, including Kathy and Joe Leskoske, who help us weekly with everything from redesigning exhibits and making new signage to leading guided walks and reorganizing the craft supply closet.  Without such hardworking volunteers and staff, it would be impossible to maintain enriching programming at the Nature Center.  I feel this will become even more evident to me as I move into my first summer season.

To provide some background on myself, I moved to the North Country from the Syracuse area, where my family is from.  From 2008 to 2011, I was enrolled as a Master’s student at SUNY-ESF where I worked on a wetland remediation project with Drs. Donald J. Leopold and Tony Eallonardo designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of utilizing stress tolerant native species to restore post-industrial sites (in this case, the Solvay waste beds).  It was a very interesting project to work on and uniquely connected to my family’s history, as many members of my family worked for the soda ash industry in Syracuse that created the waste beds.  Upon graduation, I continued working with Don and Tony as a research technician and also began working at Onondaga Environmental Institute (OEI), a non-profit in Syracuse.  OEI is responsible for organizing outreach and education programs for the “Save the Rain” campaign, a green infrastructure program designed to improve storm water management in Syracuse.  I am hopeful that we can use my contacts at SUNY-ESF to develop new programing for the Nature Center and expand the relationship between SUNY-ESF and Wellesley Island State Park.  I am also interested in installing rain barrels and a rain garden at the Nature Center so we can incorporate some of the sustainability principals I learned through my time at OEI into our Nature Center programming.

I have been working in the field of Environmental Education since I was 16 years old.  In high school I was the animal caretaker and gift shop and front desk attendant at Beaver Lake Nature Center, a County Park in Baldwinsville, NY.  As a college student I was a Naturalist Intern at Beaver Lake, leading interpretive walks for school groups, adults, and families and helping run their summer day camp program.  Following the completion of my Bachelors Degree, I worked at Assateague State Park as a member of the Maryland Conservation Corps (an AmeriCorps service group), leading environmental education programs in the park, at local schools, and at the Salisbury Zoo.  After leaving Assateague, I worked for two years at the University of Rhode Island’s W. Alton Jones Environmental Education Center (WAJ) in West Greenwich, RI as a Field Teacher/Naturalist.  WAJ is a residential environmental education center where predominately 5th-7th grade students come and stay for 1 to 5 days.  Through my experience as an Environmental Educator, I became increasingly interested in developing programs that blend the principals of ecological restoration with environmental education to encourage people to rethink how they interact with the world around them, from the landscaping they plant in front of their houses to how they procure their food.  To be able to move in this direction, I felt I needed to improve my knowledge of ecology and specifically, restoration ecology, leading me to enroll in SUNY-ESF.

I am very excited and grateful to have the opportunity to be the new Director of the Minna Anthony Common Nature Center.  I feel there are many possible avenues for future programming that we can consider and explore and I am looking forward to collaborating with Kim, the park staff, our Friends Board, and volunteers to continue developing the scope and reach of Nature Center programming.  I feel this is the beginning of a great adventure, and I am ready to push up my sleeves and get started.

Spring 2014: What’s Happening at the Nature Center

By Kim Cullen, Environmental Educator Assistant

The Nature Center has had a very busy winter so far!  We have had many skiers and snowshoers exploring the trails.  As we all know, this year has been very cold.  Due to frigid temperatures, the river is nearly completely frozen.  Open water remains only in pockets where the current is strong.  If you look carefully at the river when heading over the bridge to Wellesley Island, you can still see a few pockets of moving water.  Eagles can often be found near these pockets as they hunt for fish.  The frozen river eliminates the warming effect open river water can have on our winter temperatures, allowing the Island to accumulate more snow.  So our reward for dealing with the bitter cold this winter is being able to open our trails for winter recreation.  Many families have taken advantage of our snow by coming to spend the day skiing or snowshoeing.

Besides having the trails open we have hosted a few special events recently.  We kicked off our winter season with our annual Christmas Party which featured For Heaven’s Sake, an a cappella quartet from Alexandria Bay and Lynn Morgan, our Christmas storyteller.  Visitors enjoyed sitting by the fire while they listened to the wonderful music and stories, ate Christmas cookies, and sipped hot chocolate.

For the first time, Spider Rybaak offered two ice fishing classes this winter that were well received by our visitors.  Classes were held in Eel Bay near the Nature Center.  Participants learned the fundamentals of ice fishing and children caught perch and crappies.  Spider will be back this spring and summer with his regular fishing and fly fishing classes and will offer a child centered fishing derby on May 25.  More information will be coming soon, but for the time being, look in the listing of upcoming events for more information.

Nature Center staff members have also taken part in a variety of events hosted by other organizations this winter.  In February, Kim set up a craft table at “Super Science Saturday” held at Jefferson Community College.  She interacted with more than 500 children as she taught them about winter tracking.  “Super Science Saturday” will be held on February 7th next year.  It is an event you won’t want to miss!

Kim also helped lead a successful snowshoeing hike at the Indian River Lakes Conservancy recently.  The Nature Center provided snowshoes for the event.  About 40 hikers of all ages came out to enjoy a wonderful winter hike along the Butterfield Lake Trail.  During the hike we saw barred owl and a lazy porcupine dosing in the trees.

In our listing of upcoming event there are few places the Nature Center will be visiting soon. We hope to see you there!

 

Fall 2013: What’s Happening at the Nature Center

As the summer season draws to a close, we say good bye to many of our summer staff members and visitors.  It has been a great summer, full of guided hikes, Voyageur Canoe trips, nature programs, and more.

Preparations are underway for the 35th Annual Autumn Fest on Saturday, October 12.  There will be a combination of perpetual favorites and exciting new exhibits.  Volunteers are needed.  Call 315-482-2479 for more information.

The Schongalla family donated a perch to the Nature Center.  With the family’s consent the Nature Center gave the perch to Rick West for his Birds of Prey programs. Many thanks to the family for their generous donation!

Last year the Friends of the Nature Center purchased two chainsaws and a wood chipper for use at the Nature Center.  This year our maintenance staff put them to good use.  Pictured at left is Russ Ruttan on one of the corduroy walkways that he built this summer with the help of other staff members.

 

Goodbye to Wellesley by Rob Barker

After a 40 year career in the Resource Management Field; 30 years at Maryland Forest, Park, and Wildlife Service, 8 years at Wellesley Island State Park Nature Center, and 2 years as a private consultant, I have decided to retire after this year’s Autumn Festival.  I shall miss this place, but time and agendas change… So it’s time to step aside.

I’ll miss the people: Kim, Ben, Lynn, Nancy, the Friends, and Volunteers.  The Summer Naturalists are too numerous to mention.  Some have returned for several years, some have moved on.  Let us not forget the visitors.  Our cottage patrons that visited season after season became like friends (some of them, anyway).  The teachers and all were appreciated.

The fall I worked on a Friends contract will probably be my favorite memory.  The oaks along Eel Bay Trail were different shades of red and yellow, Sand Cove was beginning to ice up, snow was in the air.  And the ducks… We hiked to the pond that afternoon.  It was covered with more Diving Ducks (Bufflehead & Goldeneye) than I have ever seen.  Memories that last forever….

Working at the Nature Center has allowed me to learn.  After we got our tractor, a guy named Russ came along, I learned more about using equipment than I thought was possible.  Thanks Russ!

What’s next? If all goes as planned, I will be relocating to Pennsylvania.  This is a beautiful area, but the mountains are calling.

Good luck to all, keep me posted, it’s been real

Spring 2013: What’s Happening at the Nature Center

Skiing and Snowshoeing

Even with the temperature swings and January thaws, we have had a fairly busy ski and snowshoe season.  When there is snow on the ground, people are on the trails.  It is wonderful to see so many people outside and enjoying the beauty of a Thousand Islands winter!  This winter we received a donation of two sets of children’s skies.  Thank you to our anonymous donor!

 

Stoney Point Band

On January 19th, the Stoney Point Band entertained approximately 45 people at the Nature Center with their bluegrass music.  Band members are Dave Peters, guitar/ vocals; Kathy Wiley, bass; Lea Call, fiddle; John Goloski, banjo; and Joe Cullen, guitar.  The band enjoyed themselves so much that they have already asked to come back.  Details of their next performance will be announced as soon as they become available.

 

School Groups

We love having school groups visit us!  May and June are already filling up with spring field trips and a few brave groups are visiting us this winter.  We consider it one of our most important and exciting tasks to share our love and knowledge of the natural world with the next generation.  From October to May, it is free for school groups to visit the Nature Center.  From May to October, schools are required to pay $35.00 per bus to enter Wellesley Island State Park and access the Nature Center.  Because we feel so strongly that every child should have an opportunity interact with nature, the Friends of the Nature Center, Inc. has decided to pay the bus fee for schools that would otherwise be unable to visit because of the cost.  If you would like to contribute to the Field Trip Fund, you may send donations marked “Field Trip Fund” to:

Friends of the Nature Center, Inc.

Wellesley Island State Park

44927 Cross Island Road

Fineview, NY  13640

 

Planning for Spring and Summer

Spring and Summer will be here before we know it.  We are already making plans for upcoming programs, events, and activities.  Favorites like Spider’s Fishing Clinics and Rick West’s Birds of Prey have already been scheduled.  We are making plans for several arts and crafts, guided hikes, and programs.  If you are interested in volunteering at the Nature Center, we would love to have you.  If you are part of a group or organization that would like to hold an event or program at the Nature Center, we would love to discuss it with you.  Call us at 315-482-2479 for more information.

 

Eagle and Osprey Display

The St. Lawrence Eastern Lake Ontario Raptor Working Group and the Nature Center are working together to build a display at the Nature Center detailing the decline and resurgence of Osprey and Bald Eagles in the Thousand Islands Region.  If you have pictures of Osprey or Eagles in the area and would like to contribute them to the display, please contact the Nature Center for more information.

December 12, 2012

It snowed this morning at the Nature Center.  It was just enough to turn everything white for a bit, just enough for the animal tracks show up on the lawn.  I’m sure it will melt away before we get more, but maybe it’s a sign that we’re in for a good ski and snowshoe season.  Here are the guidelines for skiing and snowshoeing at the Nature Center.  It is recommended that you call us first to check on conditions (315-482-2479) before you come over to ski or snowshoe.

                      Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing    

Skiing and snowshoeing originated at least 5,000 years ago in northern Europe and Asia.  Skis and snowshoes were originally developed to make traveling in deep snow easier.  They work by distributing body weight over a larger surface area.  This allows skiers or snowshoers to travel over the surface of the snow rather than sinking into it.  Come to the Nature Center to try out this ancient mode of transportation.  Have some fun taking in the sights and sounds of winter at the Nature Center!

Free Cross-Country Ski Lessons will be available every Saturday at 1 p.m.  Please call ahead to make an appointment.  Ski conditions must be favorable.

Rental Information

Skis: $7 for 4 hours or less; $10 for more than four hours (all day)

Snowshoes: $3 to enjoy as much snowshoeing as you like

All skis and snowshoes must be returned to the museum by 3:45pm.  There will be no rentals after 3:00pm.

Conditions

We need a minimum of 7 inches of snow to pack the trails and set the track.  We strongly recommend calling the Nature Center before heading to the island to ski.  Weather and snow conditions can be quite different than areas to the south.   Wind off the river can increase the effect of wind chill and remove snow from sections of the trails. Please remember to dress appropriately.

Autumn 2012: What’s Happening at the Nature Center

Another busy summer is drawing to a close at the Nature Center. This summer we have enjoyed many programs, activities, guided hikes, arts and crafts, and Voyageur Canoe trips. Many thanks go to our Nature Center staff and volunteers, to those who came to the Nature Center to conduct programs, lectures, and activities, and to our many visitors! We hope to see you all again. Please remember the Nature Center is open all year. Each season is different; we invite you to experience the beauty of nature all year long!

This summer the Nature Center met Keith Savage. Keith is a local taxidermist who lives in Plessis. Keith felt that he could use his skills to benefit the Nature Center. He has donated two fish mounts, a fox blanket, and refinished the Nature Center’s largemouth bass. Keith has also loaned us his award winning fox.  Thank you Keith!  Savage Taxidermy- 315- 955- 4418 email: Keiths1831@aol.com

As you hike the North Field Loop, you might notice two Asian Longhorned Beetle traps hanging in sugar maple trees. The Asian Longhorned Beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis) is an invasive insect that is a serious threat to hardwood trees in the United States. The purpose of the traps is to determine whether the Asian Longhorned Beetles are present in this part of New York. You can do your part to fight this invasive insect by educating yourself, reporting any possible infestations, and allowing officials access to your property to preform surveys. Do not move firewood! Infested firewood can spread invasive insects to areas where they are not yet present. Visit the DEC website or the USDA website for more information about the Asian Longhorned Beetle.