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College's Outdoor Centers Explained at Roundtable

College's Outdoor Centers Explained at Roundtable

03/24/2015 

SUNY Cortland offers many disciplines that have a strong focus on learning in a natural environment — recreation, physical education, biological sciences, geology, primary and secondary science education — to name a few.

Fortunately, the College owns several campuses that are remote from Cortland, including elsewhere in Cortland County, in the Adirondacks and in the Albany area. At these facilities, any student who has a course requirement or simply the desire can experience the outdoors up close and personal. It’s been a transformative experience for many students.

Rhonda Jacobs ’01, assistant director of the William H. Parks Family Center for Environmental and Outdoor Education, will present “The Outdoor Four” during a community roundtable on Thursday, April 2, in the Park Center Hall of Fame Room.

Hosted by the President’s Office as part of the College’s ongoing Community Roundtable series, the event is free and open to the public. The series provides programs on diverse intellectual, regional and cultural topics of interest to College faculty, staff and community members.

The roundtable opens at 7:45 a.m. with refreshments and the presentation, featuring a question-and-answer period, takes place from 8 to 9 a.m.

The W.H. Parks Family Outdoor Center, named in honor of the family of alumna Lynne Parks Hoffman ’68, operates SUNY Cortland’s four outdoor education facilities. Jacobs, who joined the College to assist in overseeing the centers in 2003, will explore each property’s unique history and connection with the College including the evolution of course work and current uses.

“The students at each of our four facilities get to experience the outdoors as a classroom, laboratory and playground,” Jacobs said. “Students and faculty alike build strong relationships with each other while becoming stewards of the lands they roam.”

All four facilities are located in different directions at most a mere three hours from campus.

The Brauer Memorial Field Station at William H. Parks Family Center for Environmental and Outdoor Education is a modern, log-built, conference center situated on a 33-acre wooded tract approximately eight miles southwest of Albany. Open from May through October, the W.H. Parks Family Outdoor Center, Brauer Field Station sits near the base of the Helderberg escarpment, a regional land formation that features fossil-bearing Devonian limestone forms, two prominent cliffs and numerous small outcrops. On its northwestern corner, the Brauer Field Station offers future geologists the chance to explore a fossilized small stromotoperoid reef.

“Brauer Field Station was the first geological field station in the SUNY system,” Jacobs noted. “The property was donated to the College in 1974 by the Robert C. Brauer family. In 1982, the first geology classes were held.”

Located in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains just a short boat ride apart from each other on Raquette Lake are the Huntington Memorial Camp at William H. Parks Family Center for Environmental and Outdoor Education and the Antlers at William H. Parks Family Center for Environmental and Outdoor Education.

Antlers
Two SUNY Cortland students relax on the dock at Antlers.

“Since the late 1940s biology, recreation and physical education students have been exploring the Adirondacks,” Jacobs said. “The original three programs remain strong while additional programs like art and art history, childhood education and team experiences have added.” 

The W.H. Parks Family Outdoor Center, Camp Huntington, is comprised of 40 buildings that represent a combination of the Adirondacks’ historical past and modern conveniences. Located on Raquette Lake’s Long Point, the site is accessible only by boat in the summer and by ice road during the winter. The camp accommodates up to 70 participants in various dorm-style and historic buildings throughout the year. Visitors and groups have a variety of outdoor equipment and resources to meet their objectives, which can encompass exploring approximately four miles of hiking and cross-country ski trails or the self-guided Waldbauer Nature Trail; or borrowing canoes, kayaks, cross-country skis, boots and poles, snowshoes, tents and camping equipment. The site has classrooms and a challenge course with high and low elements, plus a climbing wall.

The W.H. Parks Family Outdoor Center, Antlers is a small outdoor and environmental education center on the Raquette Lake shore. Originally run in the late 1880s as The Antlers Hotel, currently the center encompasses seven original buildings including a dining hall, classroom and sleeping accommodations for 45 individuals. Antlers operates from mid-May through mid-October and its dock launches visitors on trips to and from Camp Huntington.

Located only seven miles south of SUNY Cortland’s main campus is the Hoxie Gorge Nature Preserve at William H. Parks Family Center for Environmental and Outdoor Education. The site offers a beautiful, natural setting for participation in class and individual study, research or simple enjoyment of the environment. Approximately 1,000 students per year are involved in academic field study there. Research topics include insect chemical ecology and behavior, taxonomy of mushrooms, conservation biology of amphibians, pollination biology of flowering plants and nutrient cycling in streams. A highlight of the W.H. Parks Family Outdoor Center, Hoxie Gorge, is the one-mile McDermott Nature Trail, which contains 38 marked interpretive stations keyed to a trail guide.

Hoxie Gorge
A pair of students explores a small creature that they have captured in their net at Hoxie Gorge.

“Hoxie Gorge has been used by the College since 1965,” Jacobs said. “Students and faculty in the science departments have completed a variety of research over the years that often is published in professional journals.”

Before joining SUNY Cortland, Jacobs was the program coordinator and environmental educator at the Frost Valley YMCA in Claryville, N.Y. While a SUNY Cortland undergraduate, where she earned a degree in recreation education and coordinated the annual SUNY Cortland Recreation Conference, Jacobs served as vice president of the College’s Recreation Association and participated in the Cortland Outdoor Opportunities Program. She completed her senior capstone internship at Camp Huntington and returned the following summer to help refurbish the Kirby Camp. The two experiences solidified her love of the Adirondacks and SUNY Cortland. She also has an associate’s degree in recreation leadership from Tompkins Cortland Community College.

During the roundtable, public parking is available in the Park Center and Professional Studies Building lots.

For the roundtable, public parking is available in the Park Center and Professional Studies Building lots.

For more information about the centers, contact the centers at 607-753-5488 or outdoor.edinfo@cortland.edu. For more information about Community Roundtable events, contact Susan Vleck at 607-753-2377.

For more information about the centers, contact the centers at 607-753-5488 or outdoor.edinfo@cortland.edu. For more information about Community Roundtable events, contact Susan Vleck at 607-753-2377.