Nature Center’s Supporters Clear a New Trail
For generations, people in and around Sherburne have come to the Rogers Environmental Education Center to picnic, stroll or hike and learn about nature. With six miles of trails running through woodlands, meadows, wetlands and farm fields, plus an interpretive center and a bird cabin, Rogers is a popular spot for family outings and school field trips.
The economy of the past few years hasn’t been kind to Rogers. In 2010, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which owns the property and buildings, cut the Center from its budget. Rogers is open to the public today only because a group of dedicated supporters, Friends of Rogers (FOR), took over the Center’s operations in 2011.
For many years, FOR has sponsored special events, provided summer camp scholarships and otherwise served as a loyal auxiliary, but never before has it taken a direct role in Rogers’ operations. Today, in place of the six full-time state employees who used to run the Center, FOR’s volunteer board attends to administrative duties, with a part-time coordinator to keep the interpretive center open during limited hours. Now the board of FOR is trying to figure out how to return Rogers to full operation.
“We’ve been strategizing how to go from a volunteer board to a full-time not-for-profit,” says Sharon Pelosi, FOR’s board president. The group has developed a strategic plan, and in 2012 it started working to hire an executive director. “That’s the next step toward going beyond the volunteer board and trying to function as a new not-for-profit,” she says.
Keeping Rogers open is important in a region where people must drive a long way to reach other family-friendly attractions such as museums, Pelosi says. Residents of Chenango County and surrounding areas have been enjoying the Center for generations. “A lot of people have grown up with it as part of the fabric of the community and feel strongly about it,” she says.
Of course, it takes money to run a 600-acre education center. The new executive director will launch a fundraising campaign, but in the meantime, members of FOR are grateful for the $10,000 grant that the group received from the Community Foundation in 2012.
“The Foundation recognizes the value of the Rogers Center as a community resource and realizes that we need a little bit of seed money to get our feet off the ground.” Pelosi says. “Even though we’ve been around for a while, running the property full time is a totally different ball game.”