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Nature Center to host weekend winter hikes

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MASSENA - The Friends of the Robert Moses Nature Center will hold two guided winter hikes this weekend to kick off 10 months of new events and hiking groups on Barnhart Island.

The Nature Center will host its first winter-walking group from 1-2 p.m. Saturday and its first snowshoeing group a the same time Sunday. The winter-walking group will be held one Saturday each month for the next 10 months, and the snowshoeing group will be held two Sundays each month until the end of winter.

Both programs are part of the Alcoa Foundation’s “Mind, Body, Soul - Come Alive” grant, an $18,000 initiative to promote health, nature and the arts among the local community.

“We want to get people outdoors and to try to get them to learn something new, get them to do something they’ve never done before,” said Debra A. Donatto, coordinator for the grant’s programs.

In addition to the Sunday snowshoeing walks, the Nature Center will also host occasional moonlight snowshoeing events, guided by flashlight. Ms. Donatto believes group hikes like these are a good way to introduce someone to snowshoeing.

“Basically, if they’re new to snowshoeing, they should come along for a guided trip, and after they’ve done the trails once or twice (with a group), they should have no reservations” about doing it on their own, Ms. Donatto said.

Ms. Donatto said snowshoeing can be appealing to a variety of ages and fitness levels. One seeking light exercise can walk on packed-down trails, and one seeking a tougher workout can walk over fresh snow, which is a much tougher workout. She noted snowshoes are available for rent from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. throughout the week, excluding some weekends.

The grant is also funding a variety of artistic events, including a wood-carving event and a nature photography course. When the weather gets warmer, the center will host outdoor zumba, meditation and other events.

“We don’t have a lot of amenities, such as museums or arcades, here in Massena,” Ms. Donatto said. “But what do we have here in Massena? Nature. Let’s enjoy what we have.”

Last summer, the New York Power Authority’s Board of Trustees awarded approximately $431,000 to complete design and engineering work for a new Nature Center. The previous center burned in 2010.

Nature Center Director Mary A. Danboise was pleased to hear of the board’s decision. Initial design work will begin this fall and the new center, which will feature interactive exhibits and classroom space, will be built by 2015, NYPA officials said. Another contract for the center’s construction is forthcoming.

Ms. Donatto hopes the grant programs will increase use of the Nature Center before the facility is completed.

“If we can get enough people (to utilize) the Nature Center, we’ll already have regular attendance when we open the new facility,” she said. “It’ll be a great thing for Massena.”

To see the schedule of events at the Nature Center, email ncrebirth@yahoo.com, or “like” The Friends of the Robert Moses Nature Center page on Facebook.com. One may also contact the office at all 705-5033.

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