COVID-19 Safety Information

Bulletin News

College to Mark Anniversary for Antlers


One doesn’t need to love exploring the Adirondack wilderness to appreciate what the William H. Parks Family Center for Environmental and Outdoor Education, Antlers, has meant for SUNY Cortland.

Blackflies and unpredictable mountain weather notwithstanding, the College has used the small pre-turn-of-the-19th-century resort to provide students with a world-class living laboratory for training in physical education, recreation and the sciences.

In fact for half a century, generations of students in an expanding range of disciplines have chosen the camp as a home base to swim, canoe, camp on a remote island, collect science specimens or otherwise experience what for many has been their first close encounters with wilderness.

Now part of the W.H. Parks Family Center for Environmental and Outdoor Education, Antlers on Jan. 15 marked 50 years as a College property.

On Saturday, Aug. 22, the College community invites alumni, faculty, staff and representatives of the SUNY Cortland Auxiliary Services Corporation (ASC) — which facilitated the acquisition — to celebrate the golden anniversary milestone at an amphitheater installed in 2014 beside the Casino building.

The occasion also formally marks the dedication of the William H. Parks Family Center for Environmental and Outdoor Education, which encompasses the center’s main office on the SUNY Cortland campus as well as Antlers and three other outdoor educational facilities: Camp Huntington also on Raquette Lake, the Brauer Memorial Education Center in Selkirk, N.Y., and the Hoxie Gorge Nature Preserve near Cortland, which celebrated its own golden jubilee on July 11. Present at the ceremony will be members of the family of Lynne Parks Hoffman ’68, who recently made a $1 million bequest to the College to strengthen programming and student access to the facilities.

The ceremony begins at 1 p.m. and refreshments will be served. Depending on how many people attend, the event may move to the roomier, grassy lawn behind the Casino. A bus will shuttle alumni, faculty and staff guests between the SUNY Cortland campus and Antlers, from the Professional Studies Building gravel parking lot at 9:15 a.m. and beginning the approximately three-hour return trip at 3:45 p.m.

Antlers - Casino upstairs porch
Students relax on the upstairs porch of the Casino building at the W.H. Parks Family Outdoor Center at Antlers. 

The College’s historical records relate that the W.H. Parks Family Outdoor Center at Antlers was originally a strategic purchase to give the College docking privileges, convenient parking and offices, extra storage and classroom space, and a way station for travelers preparing to visit the more remote Camp Huntington.

The five-acre acquisition on the lake’s west side was negotiated in 1965 with George Fuge, the late director of the W.H. Parks Family Center for Environmental and Outdoor Education. The College already owned Camp Huntington, situated on the Long Point peninsula, but needed a more direct and affordable way to bring students and faculty to and from its dock.

“For years, the way we got people up here was to park at one of the local marinas and pay them a fee to transport people over here to Huntington,” said Robert Rubendall, current director of the W.H. Parks Family Outdoor Center. “And in the winter, we had to cross over on the ice from the south shore of the lake. It was not a very advantageous arrangement at all and very expensive because of the fees we paid to the marina.”

Although it is not listed with the National Register of Historic Places like Camp Huntington, the Antlers came with its own long and colorful story. Built in the late 1880s as a small resort and hotel with small cabins, lean-tos and platform tents in addition to the Antlers Hotel, today’s facility retains the name but is comprised of only the lower buildings remaining from lots that were gradually sold off to private landowners.

Fuge knew the Antlers owners and quietly settled the sale terms through SUNY Cortland’s Student Faculty Association, today known as ASC, Rubendall said. The original acquisition included the Casino, Cedars and the Terrace Cottages.

Quickly the accessibility of Antlers to roads and civilization increased its use for educational programming in its own right. This was especially the case in late spring and early winter, when ice formation and melt on Raquette Lake prevented travel over the lake to Camp Huntington, the College’s nearby, much larger facilities.

Antlers - view from beach.
From the beach, visitors have a sweeping view of Raquette Lake and the Casino at W.H. Parks Outdoor Center at Antlers.

“It became clear, within a year, that we needed much more space to operate summer programs as well, and that’s when we acquired the hotel, the Main Lodge up above,” Rubendall said. “It has roughly 20 beds, and so that doubled the capacity of the facility itself.”

In 2013, ownership of Antlers was transferred from ASC to the Cortland College Foundation. The property currently is leased by SUNY Cortland. 

Fifty years after its acquisition, classes of students annually use the 45-bed W.H. Parks Family Outdoor Center, Antlers as a base for their experiential learning or as a convenient launching point to visit Huntington. In summer, alumni flock to Antlers beside the pristine lake for programs that allow them to recharge their bodies as they renew their friendships with classmates.

Graduates recall with great fondness their time spent at these outdoor classrooms.

“I think the number of alumni that come back year after year to enjoy Antlers with their families speaks to its value,” Rubendall said. “We just built the amphitheater there last year and this spring we remodeled the kitchen in the Main Lodge.”

Both improvements expand the use of Antlers by adding an outdoor classroom and creating kitchen and dining facilities that groups can use much earlier in the spring and later in the fall.

“So the College is really making a commitment to ensure that Antlers continues to be a viable and valuable part of the whole outdoor education resource here at Raquette Lake,” Rubendall said.

“We hope alumni, faculty and staff members consider joining us in celebrating this major College milestone and in expressing our gratitude for Lynne’s leadership and support.”