State officials honor Humphrey Nature Center at ribbon cutting
After some delay, the ribbon-cutting ceremony makes it official: the Humphrey Nature Center is open for business.
A large crowd of people made its way to Letchworth State Park’s newest — and maybe its greatest — asset to hear state officials honor the new digs.
Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke first and talked about what this nature center means to Letchworth and future generations.
“It’s an honor to be at Letchworth today because you are taking the premier park in the country and you are making it even better,” he said. “Peter Humphrey and his family in many ways are the perfect metaphor for that legacy and that responsibility. His grandfather, his father, and now Peter Humphrey have stepped up to make a difference and preserve this asset. His grandfather gave it to his father, his father gave it to Peter, and Peter will now give it to his grandchildren. All of us follow that model in preserving this beautiful, beautiful part of America for the next generation.”
More than $6 million in public and private money made the state-of-the-art facility come to be in what a national poll determined to the country’s No. 1 state park.
Though the center was first announced in the spring of 2014, conversations about a year-round nature center began in the 1970s when the Audobon Society suggested it.
Planning began in 2009, but ground wasn’t broken until the summer of 2015.
The new center, named after the Humphrey Family, who has had an integral part in not only the nature center, but Letchworth Park itself, was slated to receive a grand opening ceremony in June, but it was postponed in the wake of a pair of tragedies that took place at the park.
Two young boys drowned after being swept over the park’s Lower Falls the night of June 11. The night before, Ryan Almeter, a Keshequa Central School teacher who also worked for Balloons Over Letchworth, fell to his death in an accident after assisting with the landing of a hot air balloon in Nunda.
Peter Humphrey helms the Genesee State Park Commission, a position his father Wolcott Humphrey Jr. also held and a committee his grandfather Wolcott Humphrey Sr. co-founded. The GSPC was a driving force behind the nature center project.
After receiving a standing ovation, Humphrey thanked everyone for their efforts the past few years and for taking the “leap of faith” with him as they were “blazing new territory” with the nature center, which is becoming the new model for parks across the state so much so that New York State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey mentioned plans for 12 more nature centers across New York.
She said all 12 will be modeled after this partnership and design.
What’s more, she also said the plan is to double programming at this nature center, meaning classes twice a day, seven days a week.
“Our parks are our souls and our future,” she said.
Senator Patrick Gallivan (R-C-I, Elma), was also in attendance and spoke on the importance of not only Letchworth, but all New York State parks.
He said one of his first duties as a senator involved the state park system, which was in jeopardy of folding. He said the he had to vote on Harvey as commissioner and added it was “one of my first votes and one of my best votes.”
Humphrey closed out the speeches before the official ribbon-cutting.
“Letchworth Park is like no other park,” he said. “We’ve taken a world-class park and, we hope, have made it a little bit better and hope to have thousands and thousands of people walk through those doors.”