The environmental education program is a key component of the Rogers Environmental Education Center in Sherburne.
At the center, volunteers develop and administer free lectures, tours and events such as interpretive nature walks, owl watches, hiking, kayaking and snowshoeing.
The center has a rich history immersed in local culture that capitalizes on the area's unique geography.
The inspiration for the center came from New York state's first game farm, The Sherburne Pheasant farm in 1909.
The purpose of the game farm was to raise and release pheasants and other game birds, primarily for hunting.
The farm is the longest continuously operating game farm in the United States, which had been run by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
During the first half of the 20th century, hundreds of acres were acquired and added to the conservation farm.
In 1948, the farm was officially renamed from the Sherburne Game Farm to the Rogers State Game Farm to honor farm managers Harry and Gertrude Rogers.
In 1963, the farm was slated to be shut down by the state DEC, when a group of citizens banded together to form a nature center at the location.
With grant funding from the Audubon Society, the interpretive center was realized in 1966.
The programming and function of the center has evolved from interpreting policies and providing information related to public environmental concerns to opening the center to the public for a variety of free activities.
Due to the state fiscal crisis in 2010, money to fund the center from New York state was removed from the budget.
For the second time in less than 50 years, volunteers helped save the center from closure.
In early 2011, the volunteers, called Friends of Rogers, took over operation of the center from the state.
"We are a nonprofit organization. We get no state support," said Cara Sefchick, Friends of Rogers coordinator.
"There is a lot of misconception that we receive funding from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and that's not true," she added. "All of our programs are funded by donations and volunteers."
The environmental education programs made available to the public by the center provide students and families with opportunities that cannot be found anywhere else, Sefchick said.
"We are always looking for new, creative ideas both in education and in fundraising," she said
The center hosted a "2012 Venus Transit Across the Face of the Sun" program on Tuesday where Adam Schoonmaker, a professor of geophysics at Utica College, made available special filtered telescopes and binoculars to safely view the transit, which, before the program, he said is a "rare and interesting astronomical event."
The 600-acre property also offers nature walks, training workshops, evening lectures, and monthly full-moon hikes.
Participants have the opportunity to observe nocturnal animals in action and learn about new developments at the center during the monthly hikes.
A Kid Drop-In Day will be held from 10 a.m. to noon June 16, where children will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of outdoor activities.
The program, held the first and third Saturday of each month, includes hands-on activities with a short hike around the grounds.
Annual events include a Winter Living Celebration in January where attendees can celebrate winter with interactive activities such as horse-drawn sleigh rides, bird feeding by hand, cross country skiing and snowshoeing. In May, Earth Fest is celebrated where green options for sustainable living are showcased, including entertainment and local nature-themed crafts.
Another popular longstanding tradition is The Animals of Halloween celebration where volunteers dressed in nocturnal animal costumes station themselves at interpretive trails to give presentations about animal behavior. That child-friendly event is held annually the Friday before Halloween.
All activities and programs are free and open to the public.
Sefchick said the center welcomes volunteers and new members.
More information can be found at www.friendsofrogers.org.
The environmental education program is a key component of the Rogers Environmental Education Center in Sherburne.
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