Save Rogers Environmental Education Center

Melissa Stagnaro

Honestly, over the last couple of months, with all the hype about the election, I’d basically forgotten all about our lame-duck governor. But today I was reminded that he’s not only still sitting at the helm of our once-great state, but he’s also continuing to do his damnedest to do further damage.

So much for exiting office gracefully.

His latest atrocity is against New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation – 140 laid off, with the promise of more to come. And with those layoffs, the closure of one of our area’s most treasured environmental educational assets. I’m speaking of Rogers Environmental Education Center, which is one of I believe four such facilities to be snuck onto the chopping block while most of us weren’t looking.

My first reaction to the news was of the “Say it ain’t so” variety. I could do little more than sit there in stunned disbelief for a minute. After I double checking the veracity of the information I’d been provided, of course.

I was hoping that it was all vicious, completely unfounded rumor. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.

I just have such great memories of the place that it breaks my heart. My first trip to the Sherburne facility was as a Girl Scout, I think. I remember feeding the fish and the ducks, hiking the trails, getting a birds-eye view of the entire valley from the farm tower. There was that little frontier cabin, too, which I’m not even sure is there anymore. I know the fish hatchery is no longer.

I loved the exhibits in the conservation center as well. (Wait, wasn’t it called Rogers Environmental Conservation Center back then?) I was always fascinated to watch the bees in their hive. And I’d get myself all worked up about sticking my hand into the box, the one where you had to try to identify what was in there just by touch?

And don’t think I didn’t learn something. As an insect-hater, I was a staunch proponent of eliminating the entire bug population. Until I saw the exhibit about the balance of the eco-system, which explained how those dastardly, annoying little insects were an important link in the food chain – and without them we wouldn’t have all those beautiful birds.

Not that it made me like insects any more. I just stopped thinking of wholesale annihilation, and started appreciating the avian population a little more.

There were school and family trips, too, when I was a kid. A decade or so later, I was the one taking my nieces to explore all that Rogers had to offer.

A few weeks ago I went with a friend. It was one of those crisp, sunny fall days where you can almost forget winter is just around the corner. There were a few leaves still on the trees, and the wind rustled through them as we explored the boundary trail. Dragonflies darted around us as we paused to watch groups of Canadian geese glide across the pond. When we crossed the road, I realized the hike to the farm tower was much shorter than I remembered, but the view of Sherburne and vicinity was no less spectacular.

It was an awesome afternoon, and my friend and I lamented that we hadn’t brought a picnic basket. No problem, we thought, we’d do it in the spring, when the trees were filled with buds and the season’s first flowers were poking through the ground.

Now, thanks to Albany, we may not have the chance. Of course, they don’t care about that. Or about all the school children who will miss out on the opportunity to learn about our environment hands on at Rogers, and other education centers like it. And what about all those other DEC employees, who work so hard as stewards of our state-owned lands?

I wasn’t the one making phone calls this morning about the closure, because my dance card (or story sheet, in this case) was already full. But I could hear my coworkers – Tyler and Melissa – calling state officials, legislators and local advocates beating the proverbial bushes for more information. And quite frankly, I was almost as frustrated as they were that those parties weren’t more forthcoming – with either information or support for Rogers.

I’m not sure if they feel this is a done deal, not worthy of going to the plate for, or what. But it wasn’t too long ago that we all teamed up to show our support of the state parks. I have faith that we can muster up a similar showing for Rogers.

Who’s with me?

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

P.S. I plan to start by contacting our state officials. Don’t you be shy about doing that either. Rogers Environmental Education Center falls in the 51st Senatorial District & the 123rd Assembly District:

NYS Senator James Seward
432-5524 or (518) 455-3131

Assemblyman Gary Finch
(315)255-3045 or (518) 455-3895