Governor Cuomo Announces Opening and Designation of Humphrey Nature Center at Letchworth State Park

Nature Center Named for Philanthropist Peter G. Humphrey; Features Year-Round State-of-the-Art Interactive Exhibits 

SUNY Geneseo to Offer Educational and Research Opportunities as Part of 5-Year Cooperative Agreement 

Project Complements “Fingers Lakes Forward” – Region’s Successful Upstate Revitalization Initiative to Grow the Economy and Create New Opportunities

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the Humphrey Nature Center at Letchworth State Park is now open to its more than 850,000 annual visitors. The Nature Center is the result of a public-private partnership to establish a four-season, educational facility on Letchworth State Park grounds, and received $3.55 million through Governor Cuomo’s NY Parks 2020 program, a multi-year commitment of $900 million in private and public funding to revitalize State Parks. The Nature Center is named for philanthropist Peter G. Humphrey – whose unrelenting fundraising efforts and commitment to State Parks secured the critical $3.2 million in private investment and grants necessary for making the project a reality.

“From its pristine lakes to scenic trails, the award-winning Letchworth State Park offers a myriad of outdoor opportunities for its millions of annual visitors,” Governor Cuomo said. The Humphrey Nature Center is the result of a fruitful public-private partnership, made possible by the generous spirit of the Humphrey Family. Our parks are an integral part of who we are, and when they’re gleaming and innovative, so are we. The addition of the state-of-the-art Nature Center will continue to attract visitors and inject more tourism dollars into the Finger Lakes' economy.”

In 2015, Letchworth State Park was awarded the 2015 USA TODAY Readers' Choice Award for Best State Park. Known for its impressive views, geological formation and 66 miles of hiking trails that traverse the Park’s 14,350 acres, the Park is also largely defined by the 17 miles of the Genesee River that tumble over three major waterfalls and gorge cliffs. 

The addition of the Humphrey Nature Center builds on the Park’s variety of educational and recreational programming – guided walks, tours, a summer lecture series, whitewater rafting, kayaking, indoor and outdoor swimming – and will feature state-of-the-art interactive exhibits, as well as learning and service opportunities.

State-of-the-Art Design

The state-of-the-art 5,000 square foot sustainable design incorporates LED and natural lighting, and features a high efficiency HVAC system, radiant floor heat and a rain water cistern that is tied to the irrigation of a new “Butterfly Garden.” The Nature Center meets the Americans with Disabilities Act standards, and includes expanded meeting and classroom space, interactive exhibits designed to lead visitors outdoors to multi-use park trails.

Visitors will have the opportunity to learn about nature from birds to bugs, trees to trout, butterflies, deer, natural vegetation and its importance to the Park’s ecosystem, participate in guided walks and hikes, test their skills on a compass course, immerse themselves in a scavenger hunt to help solve nature riddles and more. The programs, technology and recreational activities will enhance visitors' understanding of the unique history, geology and environment found at the flagship Park.

Chairman of the Genesee Region State Park Commission Peter G. Humphrey said, "Our family has been honored to be involved in the stewardship of Letchworth State Park for over a century. I know my grandfather and father would be elated by all the community support that has made this nature center possible. On behalf of the entire Humphrey family, I thank all those who have come together to give the public an exceptional new facility that is fitting to the unique natural beauty of Letchworth."

Humphrey Family Legacy

The Humphrey family legacy has a rich, deeply rooted and accomplished tradition of public service. Three generations of the Humphrey family worked to ensure the longevity and preservation of the State Parks system, and in particular, the success of Letchworth State Park. In 1995, Peter G. Humphrey was appointed to the Genesee State Park Commission – co-founded by his grandfather Wolcott Humphrey Sr. – and named Chair, a position also held by his father, Wolcott Humphrey Jr. 

As Chair of both the Genesee Region Parks Commission and Capital Campaign for the Letchworth Nature Center, Peter Humphrey – along with the extended Humphrey family – spearheaded the fundraising efforts to secure the remaining capital needed to turn the vision for the Center into a reality. 

SUNY Geneseo President Denise A. Battles said, "I am delighted that the idea of the Letchworth Nature Center has been brought to full fruition and very pleased that SUNY Geneseo is part of the formal partnership that helped make it possible. It not only will be a marvelous destination for visitors to learn about this impressive state park but will offer Geneseo students a number of learning and service opportunities that will greatly enrich their college experience. My sincere congratulations to all involved in the development of this superb nature center."

SUNY Geneseo 5-Year Cooperative 

Over the last year, Letchworth State Park and the State University of New York at Geneseo have fostered a joint partnership aimed at providing greater hands-on educational experiences and research opportunities at the Humphrey Nature Center at Letchworth State Park. As part of the 5-year cooperative agreement, the University will help develop and identify educational opportunities, research, environmental restoration, and preservation projects, programming, and exhibits at the Center. Students will benefit from the inclusion of state-of-the-art classroom space, a butterfly and biosphere garden, and specialized exhibits detailing the Parks’ rich natural diversity.

State Senator Patrick Gallivan said, "New York is home to some of the most awe-inspiring natural settings in the world. It is no surprise that Letchworth State Park - which offers boundless outdoor recreation and unparalleled scenery - was chosen as a national winner last year. The outpouring of support for the Nature Center, and the Humphrey Family's devotion to seeing this project succeed, proves the generosity of our community. I thank Governor Cuomo for his support of this park and overall dedication to the protection and preservation of our natural treasures."

State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said, “Thank you to Governor Cuomo, Peter Humphrey and all of our community partners for marking this world-class Nature Center a reality for Letchworth State Park. I am certain the new Humphrey Nature Center will help our visitors see and appreciate Letchworth in many new ways and deepen their enjoyment and admiration for this enchanting park.”

DASNY President and CEO Gerrard P. Bushell said, “DASNY is proud to partner with the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to beautify New York. This new nature center is the latest jewel in the state’s tourist-destination crown providing another reason for visitors to say ‘I Love New York’.”

Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, “The Humphrey Nature Center at Letchworth State Park will enhance the public’s enjoyment of the park and provide an essential educational component to the Grand Canyon of the East. The new Nature Center will help visitors plan their exploration of one of the most beautiful parks in New York State and encourage tourism to the Finger Lakes.”

Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chairs, Monroe Community College President Anne Kress and Wegmans Food Market CEO Danny Wegman said, “The Humphrey Nature Center at Letchworth State Park will prove to be a tremendous asset to the thousands of visitors who visit this park each year. “Tourism and the arts are key sector strategies of the Finger Lakes REDC and this project enhances the public’s understanding of the park’s scenic and natural resources, while drawing additional tourists to one of the most picturesque areas in the United States.”

Executive Director of the Open Space Institute’s Alliance for New York State Parks program Erik Kulleseid said, “The new Letchworth State Park Nature Center’s educational offerings and interpretive exhibits will heighten the public’s enjoyment and appreciation for this world-class park. OSI is proud to be a leading member of this groundbreaking public-private partnership whose benefits will extend across our great state. Thank you to Governor Cuomo, Commissioner Harvey and Campaign Committee Chair Peter Humphrey for their visionary leadership in supporting this jewel of a park.”

The Humphrey Nature Center reflects Governor Cuomo's commitment to revitalizing the state park system. Financial support for the project was provided by private sector investment, $1.1 million from the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, and the Governor’s NY Parks 2020 Program – a multi-year commitment to leverage $900 million in private and public funding for State Parks from 2011 to 2020. 

The Governor's FY 2017 Budget allocates $90 million toward this initiative. In addition, this year the Governor announced the Connect Kids to Parks program, which provides free day-use park entry to fourth-grade students and their families, and creates a new transportation grant program to help students from underserved schools visit state parks and historic sites.

Accelerating Finger Lakes Forward

The project also complements “Finger Lakes Forward,” the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The State has already invested more than $3.4 billion in the region since 2012 to lay the groundwork for the plan - investing in key industries including photonics, agriculture and food production, and advanced manufacturing. Today, unemployment is down to the lowest levels since before the Great Recession; personal and corporate income taxes are down; and businesses are choosing places like Rochester, Batavia and Canandaigua as a destination to grow and invest in.

Now, the region is accelerating Finger Lakes Forward with a $500 million State investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, announced by Governor Cuomo in December 2015. The State’s $500 million investment will incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion – and the region’s plan, as submitted, projects up to 8,200 new jobs. More information is available here.