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For Release: Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Five Rivers Ed Center Celebrates 40th Anniversary

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) Five Rivers Environmental Education Center turns 40 this year. DEC will host a public celebration at the center from 1:00 to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 16, DEC announced today.

There will be family-oriented activities and music at this old-fashioned lawn party, with official ceremonies at 2:00 p.m., followed by cutting of the birthday cake. This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the Friends of Five Rivers, a not-for-profit organization that helped establish the environmental education center in 1972.

"For four decades, Five Rivers Environmental Education Center has provided a special place for children, parents and students to connect with nature and learn the importance of stewardship of our natural resources," said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. "Through the enduring partnership between DEC and the Friends of Five Rivers, hundreds of volunteers have enabled Five Rivers to offer high-quality educational programs for the community. We look forward to continuing to work with the Friends of Five River so future students have the same opportunities."

In addition to the birthday cake, lemonade, iced tea and popcorn will also be available. Games will include a spoon and egg race, tug-of-war, a three-legged race and a chin-pass trying to move an orange from one person to another without using hands. Live music will feature Nate Horwitz and Band.

Five Rivers is located on 455 acres on the outskirts of Delmar in Albany County, and has a long and storied history in the area. In 1933, what is now called Five Rivers Environmental Education Center was the Delmar Experimental Game Farm, one of six game farms operated by the New York State Conservation Department, DEC's predecessor. The game farm was dedicated primarily to the propagation and study of upland game birds.

From 1933-36, a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp also occupied the grounds, assisting in the operation of the game farm. In 1941, the Wildlife Resource Laboratory was established and began innovative field work with other game species such as waterfowl, white-tailed deer and snowshoe hare.

In 1948, a game farm employee began to assemble a small menagerie of animals in outdoor cages. CCC barracks were remodeled as public exhibition areas, which became known locally as the Delmar Zoo. For more than 20 years, thousands of school groups and families enjoyed this collection, establishing a vibrant connection between the community and the facility.

The proposed abandonment of the game farm and zoo in 1970 gave rise in the fall of 1971 to the not-for-profit corporation Five Rivers Limited (a.k.a. Friends of Five Rivers), which was instrumental in establishing DEC's second environmental education center. The Friends group provides an extraordinary range of opportunities for citizen involvement and participation at the center, providing an opportunity for people who share a commitment to environmental stewardship to join together. This strong public-private partnership continues now as DEC and the Friends work hand-in-hand to ensure the success of the site as an outdoor classroom for all ages, a place to find quiet respite from the busy day, a community asset for recreation and an island for wildlife in a suburban community.

The center is a popular spot where area residents and visitors find a variety of natural habitats linked by 10 miles of nature trails. Since its inception, Five Rivers Environmental Education Center has welcomed more than three million people. DEC staff, Friends of Five Rivers members and local volunteers provide important contributions to environmental literacy and stewardship, to civic pride, and to the physical and emotional well being of visitors of all ages. It is a one-of-a-kind environmental education and cultural resource center that continues to play an important role in the conservation of New York's natural and cultural resources.

Later this year, construction of DEC's new Guided School Program (GSP) building will be complete. Partial funding for this building came from a generous donation by the Repass family of Massachusetts in memory of Wendy Repass Suozzo, who founded the Guided School Program as a DEC environmental educator and later was the GSP coordinator for the Friends of Five Rivers.

Each year, more than 4,000 children participate in the Guided School Program. The 30-year old program is a partnership between DEC and the Friends of Five Rivers, whose volunteers are trained by DEC educators to teach a variety of forest, field and pond studies to pre-K to 7th grade students. Using hands-on science, the students learn important environmental concepts that help them become better stewards of their natural resources.

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