Engage! Explore! Educate!
Those are the key words on the front page of Pfeiffer Nature Center’s website, and there’s no doubt the organization provides plenty of opportunity for fun on its 648 acres of flora, fauna and forest.
“We try to do a variety of activities that will appeal to different audiences,” said Peg Cherre, Executive Director of Pfeiffer Nature Center, located at 14 South Main Street in Portville, NY. “Some are specifically kid-oriented, some are for adults and others are family-friendly. We try to have something for everyone.”
The Center, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, is focused on preserving the integrity of its old-growth forest, providing an area for scientific research, promoting community-based nature study programs, and furthering natural resource stewardship. Cherre said the Center achieves this mission in numerous ways.
“We offer an array of programs each year, many taking place in or adjacent to our old-growth forest, which we consider our Living Museum,” she said. “We also work closely with staff from St. Bonaventure University and area schools to provide research opportunities for their students, and also offer a variety of citizen science opportunities.”
In all of the Center’s communications, it advocates for a healthy environment and helping individuals develop and increase their connection with the natural world.
“We believe that people cannot carefor the environment until they care about it,” Cherre noted. “By increasing their knowledge and skills, getting them excited about the life of the plants and animals that surround them, we encourage people to become better stewards of the earth.”
Cherre said the Center has also taken “concrete steps” to preserve its American Chestnut log cabin, which is listed on the State and National Historic Registers. The goal is to increase its availability to the public.
“This is a long-term project that will require several years to be fully realized, but we’re well on our way. This cabin is truly a look back at not only the history of Pfeiffer Nature Center, but also the entire region, including logging practices, insect life, reforestation, and much more,” Cherre added.
Pfeiffer Nature Center, founded in 1998, boasts more than 9 miles of well-marked hiking trails, most of which are open from dawn until dusk; three geocaches that combine technology with feet-on-the-ground hiking; old-growth forest open to the public on a regular basis; a lengthy list of interactive programs, and a few little-known features that Cherre said might be of interest to many.
“We have a beautiful timber frame pavilion that is available to rent for small gatherings,” she said, noting that Pfeiffer Nature Center hosts family picnics, alumni receptions, church luncheons, small weddings, and other events at the location. “One event we’re really looking forward to is the Woods Walk and Trail Run (June 1). This will be our seventh year for the annual wellness event, and it’s also our biggest fundraiser. With three walks and three timed runs, there is something for everyone!”
NATURE PROGRAM EVENTS
Pfeiffer Nature Center will host other events this summer, ranging from art to science, poetry and math.
“Our ‘Compendium of Poems, A Collection of Leaves’ (June 8) and ‘Nature Sketching with Ferns’ (July 27) events are more art oriented,” Cherre said, noting that the Center’s benefactor, Wendy Pfeiffer Lawrence, loved art and pottery. “We’re celebrating 15 years of the intersection of art, science and nature, and that intersection was encouraged by Wendy herself. She owned the 180 acres on Lillibridge Road, and she wanted to see that land cared for and the old-growth forest maintained. The Pfeiffers loved their hilltop hideaway and wanted to see the community be able to enjoy and appreciate this remarkable asset.”
On July 13, Pfeiffer Nature Center will host its annual Portville Heritage Walk, where visitors can enjoy the Wheeler-Pfeiffer heritage and stewardship traditions, explore the chestnut cabin, and see family photos from days long past.
“We usually have a number of elderly folks that remember going up to the cabin when Wendy and her siblings were there, having parties, sharing a meal, going on hikes in the woods …” Cherre noted. “It’s generally interactive. We hear and tell stories of how the family was influenced by the community. It’s a great reminder of what the Pfeiffers offered the community; what they gave to the community.”
While the Center offers many daytime events, Cherre said they like to change things up a little by including a few evening programs, such as ‘Super Strawberry Full Moon Hike and Family Campfire’ on June 22, ‘Come to Your Senses: Know the Night’ on Aug. 10, and ‘Fire and Fall Flavors: Open Fire Cooking’ on Sept. 7.
“We like to do things that are different,” she said. “We have day and evening, and this was a new twist - to have campfires at night so folks can come out, hopefully on a clear night, do some star gazing and enjoy the scenery.”
The cost of programs at Pfeiffer Nature Center range from $5 to $25 depending on the length of the program and materials involved. Memberships are encouraged but not required to participate in the majority of events at the Center.
“The prices are reasonable so no one feels like he or she cannot afford to come,” Cherre said. “A $5 program is likely to be an hour to an hour and a half, while those that are more expensive tend to be a four-hour program. We do host a few members only events, but most are open to the public.”
A COMMUNITY EFFORT
Cherre said the Center is continually making changes to increase its presence in the area and its connection to others.
“We’ve made several improvements to our website so people can now register for programs, become members and donate securely online. We’ve also started developing an audio tour for our trails, and we’re committed to providing programs in the community for those who cannot travel to the Pfeiffer Nature Center properties,” Cherre said, noting that the community and its volunteers are vital to the growth of Pfeiffer Nature Center. “I love the dedication of our volunteers who make things happen by freely giving of their time, talents, ideas, hard work and donations. This is such a supportive community, one in which intrinsic value of land is appreciated for its many important qualities.”
Don’t miss out on any of the adventures at Pfeiffer Nature Center this summer. The office generally is open Tuesday-Thursday from 8am-4pm or by appointment. Make sure to visit pfeiffernaturecenter.org or call 716-933-0187 for more information or to make a donation.
“Like every organization, a stable financial picture is always important,” Cherre said. “The Center is very fortunate to have so much support from our community.”
“I love the reality that we have so many opportunities to share our strengths and to grow in so many ways we haven’t even imagined,” she added. “With an increasing national focus on the earth, the sky’s the limit … literally!”