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Construction of new Nature Center expected to begin in spring

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MASSENA - It’s been more than three years since a fire destroyed the building that housed the Nature Center at Robert Moses State Park, but a new facility could soon be on the way.

New York Power Authority officials said this week that they expect to begin construction on a new facility in the spring.

“The New York Power Authority removed the damaged Nature Center building at Robert Moses State Park and performed preliminary site preparation work. We are in the final stages of reviewing plans for the new Nature Center and expect to send them out for bid soon. We expect to begin construction of the facility next spring,” NYPA spokeswoman Maura Balaban said.

The Nature Center building was closed after a fire in March 2010, but programs have continued to be held near the trails while Nature Center staff work out of a nearby trailer.

Most recently, the Nature Center’s staff is completing programming that is offered through an Alcoa Foundation grant, “Mind, Body, Soul-Come Alive.” Among the programs the Nature Center has offered are star walks, campfire cooking, outdoor meditation, nature photography and trail walking.

With that grant wrapping up this month, they have now received an “Earth Keepers” grant from the Alcoa Foundation that will allow them to continue offering a variety of programming.

The three-tiered program will introduce new technologies to participants while broadening their understanding and appreciation of nature. Earth Keepers will include environmental education, promote environmental awareness, and create environmental community ambassadors among students and the public.

For a period, however, it appeared there would be no Nature Center or staff after the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation cut all of the center’s funding and laid off the staff in December 2010. However, NYPA officials stepped in and reached an agreement in mid-2011 to provide funding for the center’s operating costs, including the salaries of its then two employees. The funding is funneled through the not-for-profit Friends of the Nature Center.

In mid-2012 NYPA officials announced that they had awarded nearly $10.5 million to improve Robert Moses State Park. Approximately $10 million was designated to refurbish the St. Lawrence-Franklin Delano Roosevelt Power Project’s Barnhart Island Bridge, while another $431,000 was designated to complete design and engineering work for a new park nature center. NYPA awarded the nature center contract to Stieglitz Snyder Architecture of Buffalo.

Ms. Balaban said that funding will continue for the Nature Center.

“In addition to funding the new construction, NYPA continues to provide funding for the operation of the Nature Center at its temporary location,” she said.

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