Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

June 20, 2016

State Parks Press Office:
Randy Simons | Dan Keefe
(518) 486-1868 | news@parks.ny.gov

Humphrey Nature Center at Letchworth State Park Opens

Year-round nature center delivers on sustainability and new educational opportunities.

Letchworth and Humphrey Family Ties Date Back to Creation of the Park and Continues Today

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) Commissioner Rose Harvey announced both the designation and opening of the new Humphrey Nature Center at Letchworth State Park today. The $6.75 million, four-season, 5,000 square foot educational facility in Castile, N.Y., was realized through Governor Cuomo's NY Parks 2020 initiative in partnership with the private commitment and funding efforts led by Peter G. Humphrey and the Humphrey family. With $3.55 million funded through NY Parks 2020, current Chair of the Genesee Region Parks Commission and Chair of the Capital Campaign for the Letchworth Nature Center, Peter Humphrey – along with the extended Humphrey family – led the fundraising efforts to secure the remaining $3.2 million in both private commitments and grants which made it possible for the new destination nature center to become a reality.

 

"Governor Cuomo's NY Parks 2020 plan is reconnecting visitors to the outdoors and through these nature centers we are educating and attracting a whole new generation of park devotees," said State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. "The Humphrey Nature Center at Letchworth State Park accomplishment is another vivid example of public and private partnership success. The Humphrey family legacy has a rich, deeply rooted and accomplished tradition of public service. Three generations of this family have worked tirelessly, and committed their lives to ensure the longevity and success of Letchworth State Park and the state park system. We are proud to honor that tradition and commitment with the official designation of the Humphrey Nature Center at Letchworth State Park."

 

The sustainable destination facility features use of LED lighting as well as natural light into the building design, high efficiency HVAC system, radiant floor heat and a rain water cistern that is tied to irrigation of the new Butterfly Garden. The Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant Nature Center will include: meeting and classroom space; interactive exhibits designed to lead visitors out to engage with the park; a butterfly garden; and will connect to multi-use park trails.

 

New educational and interpretive programming will also be available for the 650,000 people that visit Letchworth State Park each year. Visitors can learn about nature from birds to bugs, trees to trout, butterflies, deer, natural vegetation and its importance to the parks' ecosystem, participate in guided walks and hikes, test their skills on a compass course, immerse themselves in a scavenger hunt to help solve nature riddles and more. The programs, technology and recreational activities will enhance visitors' understanding of the unique history, geology and environment found at the flagship park.

 

In 1906, just years before his death, William Pryor Letchworth gifted his estate and surrounding land, to New York State. At the time, the landmark gift was described as "one of the most notable benefactions of its kind in the history of the nation." Edward H. Letchworth, brother of William Pryor, and Wolcott J. Humphrey, grandfather of Peter G. Humphrey, together served on the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society charged with the operation and oversight of Letchworth State Park until 1930. Wolcott J. Humphrey served as Chairman of the committee from 1910 – 1930.

 

In 1930 the Genesee State Park Commission was created with both Edward H. Letchworth and Wolcott J. Humphrey together serving as founding members of the commission. Humphrey served as the first chairman for the Genesee State Park Commission until his death in 1959.

 

In 1963, four years after the passing of Wolcott Humphrey Sr., Wolcott J. Humphrey Jr. was appointed to the Genesee State Park Commission and carried on the Humphrey family legacy and commitment to state parks. In 1995 Peter G. Humphrey, son of Wolcott J. Humphrey Jr., was appointed to the Commission and named Chair in 1995.

 

"Our family, spanning over 100 years, has had the honor and privilege to be actively involved in the stewardship of Letchworth State Park, which continues to this day," said Peter G. Humphrey. "We are excited that this nature center will soon be open to everyone and will highlight the unique natural beauty of Letchworth. My grandfather and father would be extremely proud and on behalf of the entire Humphrey family, I wish to express our appreciation to all those who have been so instrumental in building this wonderful experience."

 

The $6.75 million cost of the Humphrey Nature Center at Letchworth State Park includes cutting edge interpretive exhibits and an operating endowment, to be supported by an ongoing fundraising campaign. The State's share includes funding from Governor Cuomo's NY Parks 2020 plan, along with grants secured from the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council in 2013 and 2014 for which Peter Humphrey and the campaign committee played an instrumental role in securing. The nature center is the result of more than five years of planning and a successful public/private partnership spearheaded by the Letchworth Nature Center Capital Campaign Committee in collaboration with representatives of the Genesee Region Parks Commission, the Natural Heritage Trust, Open Space Institute's Alliance for New York State Parks, SUNY Geneseo, and the Friends of Letchworth State Park.

 

"This has been a tremendously rewarding partnership and collaboration on so many levels. In addition to raising the necessary private funding, the campaign has engaged and involved the local communities who will continue to be invested in and supportive of the nature center for many years to come," said Natural Heritage Trust Executive Director Allen Payne.

 

"It is wonderful and fitting that the Humphrey Nature Center is a destination feature within the landscape protected by generations of Humphreys," said Lucy Rockefeller Waletzky, Chair of the New York State Council of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. "Peter Humphrey's commitment to state parks continues to be vividly on display through his role as chair of the Genesee Region State Parks Commission and Vice Chair and member of the State Council of Parks, positions that have been family-held by Peter's father and grandfather before him. The Humphrey family's devotion to our state's treasured parks has benefitted countless New Yorkers, and will continue to do so through generations to come."

 

"For generations, the Humphrey Family has continued to build upon the conservation legacy created by William Pryor Letchworth in the Genesee Gorge. The Humphrey Nature Center is a well-deserved tribute to Peter Humphrey and his entire family," said Erik Kulleseid, OSI Senior Vice President. "As Chair of the Letchworth Nature Center campaign, Peter, along with his wife Sally, have been an unfailing inspiration. OSI is grateful for the opportunity to work with them in support of this wonderful addition to Letchworth State Park. We are confident that through their work, commitment and generosity more and more people will come to appreciate and love this glorious place."

 

"The Friends of Letchworth State Park are delighted to have played such a major role in the Humphrey Nature Center at Letchworth State Park and the Butterfly Garden," said Carol Rathbun, President of Letchworth Friends Group. "It was incredibly heartwarming to see the outpouring of support given by the park, community members, and people who are passionate about our park. With the opening, we are thrilled to finally see the 'fruits of our labor' and hope the nature center and garden bring many years of enjoyment for park patrons alike."

 

Over the last year Letchworth State Park and the State University of New York at Geneseo have continued a joint partnership aimed at providing greater hands-on educational experiences and research opportunities at the Humphrey Nature Center at Letchworth State Park. As part of the 5-year cooperative agreement, the college will help develop and identify educational opportunities, research, environmental restoration, and preservation projects, programming, and exhibits at the new center. Students will benefit from the inclusion of state-of-the-art classroom space, a butterfly and biosphere garden, and specialized exhibitry detailing the rich natural diversity of the park.

 

"I am delighted that the idea of the Humphrey Nature Center at Letchworth State Park has been brought to full fruition and very pleased that SUNY Geneseo is part of the formal partnership that helped make it possible," said SUNY Geneseo President Denise A. Battles. "It not only will be a marvelous destination for visitors to learn about this impressive state park but will offer Geneseo students a number of learning and service opportunities that will greatly enrich their college experience. My sincere congratulations to all involved in the development of this superb nature center."

 

Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York State is making a historic commitment to improving and expanding access to outdoor recreation. The Governor's NY Parks 2020 program is a multi-year commitment to leverage $900 million in private and public funding for State Parks from 2011 to 2020. The Governor's 2016-17 Executive Budget allocates $90 million toward this initiative.

 

Letchworth State Park, winner of the 2015 USA TODAY Readers' Choice Award for Best State Park in the United States, is known for its spectacular views, impressive geological formation and 66 miles of hiking trails that traverse the 14,350 acres that make up the park. The park is largely defined by the 17 miles of the Genesee River that tumble over three major waterfalls and gorge cliffs. Letchworth has proven to be a popular destination for day-trippers and vacationers alike, welcoming more than 800,000 visitors last year. The park offers a wide variety of education and recreation programming including guided walks, tours, a summer lecture series, whitewater rafting, kayaking, and a swimming pool.

 

About the Campaign for the Letchworth State Park Nature Center
The Campaign for the Letchworth State Park Nature Center is a public/private partnership to build a four-season Nature Center on Letchworth State Park grounds. The fundraising efforts are being spearheaded by the Letchworth Nature Center Campaign Committee, and include representatives of the Genesee Regional Parks Commission, the Open Space Institute's Alliance for New York State Parks and the Natural Heritage Trust. To learn more about the Letchworth Nature Center or to donate to the project, visit: www.letchworthnaturecenter.org

 

About New York State Parks
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees 180 state parks and 35 historic sites, which are visited by 65 million people annually. A recent study found that New York State Parks generates $1.9 billion in economic activity annually and supports 20,000 jobs. For more information on any of these recreation areas, call 518-474-0456 or visit www.nysparks.com, connect on Facebook, or follow on Twitter.