Nature center gets $124,000

Philip Anselmo

Cumming Nature Center has gotten a needed financial shot in the arm to kick off the new year.

The grant of $124,435 from the state Office of Parks and Recreation was a bit more than expected, said Kate Bennett, president of the Rochester Museum & Science Center, which manages the 800-acre tract off Gulick Road.

“We’re thrilled that it came in this year,” Bennett said. “State money has been very difficult to procure this year. It’s great news for the Cumming Center and great news for environmental preservation.”

The funds will mainly be used for staffing and operations at the center. Some of it will help the growing summer camp programs, Bennett said.

“It’s all possible,” she said. “We are thrilled with this news.”

Cumming has been less active than its glory days in the 1980s, when the center was open every day of the week and operated with 16 full-time employees.

A few years ago, Monroe County cut its financial contributions after 34 years of support. The Marcus Whitman School District discontinued its $30,000 annual lease for an environmental study program because the center was simply too far, Bennett said.

Now, the center — open solely on weekends — has just one full-time employee, plus a part-time staffer and a core of volunteers.

But Bennett said “the nature center is on the road to being back on track.”

The grant was part of an $8 million package awarded by the Office of Parks and Recreation through its Zoos, Botanical Gardens and Aquariums Program to help preserve the state’s natural heritage.

Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park, in Canandaigua, received $5,000 through the program.

Contact Daily Messenger writer Philip Anselmo at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 322, or at