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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, March 1, 2012
Folmer, new director of the Discovery Center, wants to attract more visitors to the Pine Bush
GUILDERLAND New Director Jeffrey Folmer says more people need to “discover the Discovery Center.”
The Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center, which opened five years ago, provides an introduction to, and education about, the Pine Bush Preserve, one of the only remaining examples of an inland pine barrens.
Since its inception, the Discovery Center, on New Karner Road, has had over 50,000 visitors, and hosted more than 1,100 programs, according to Christopher Hawver, executive director of the preserve commission.
The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission was created by the state legislature in 1988 to protect and manage the unique and endangered natural communities and species of the pine bush, for ecological, recreational, and educational benefits.
Hawver said the commission was excited to hire Folmer as the new director of the Discovery Center, and he hopes filling the position marks an opportunity for growth on a number of levels.
“I’ve been interested in ecology since I was in the sixth grade, and I’ve been an amateur naturalist since I was a kid,” said Folmer, 53, who has a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from the Ramapo College of New Jersey. “I decided early on that’s what I wanted to do with my life.”
Folmer calls his professional background diverse he’s worked with the environmental protection department of New Jersey; the National Audubon Society; the American Cancer Society; the Colonial Theatre; the Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum; and as a middle-school science teacher.
He has experience with management, education, and fund-raising.
“All of this comes into play,” said Folmer.
The new director said he was impressed “right off the bat” with everything he learned about the Discovery Center.
“There is this globally rare ecosystem, rich in history and culture, and right in the Capital Region it is something that should be a destination, not just for Capital Region residents, but beyond that,” Folmer said.
He was also amazed that the facility was free to the public.
He called the preserve, and the center, a combination of educational and recreational opportunities. The 3,200-acre preserve is host to a variety of rare plants and animals, including the Karner blue butterfly, which is listed by the federal government as an endangered species. The preserve can be used for hiking, jogging, nature study, biking, hunting, fishing, and canoeing.
Folmer said public outreach is crucial, in order for more people to discover what he calls “a treasure.”
“Why do we need them to do that?” he asked. “For their own enjoyment, certainly, but we want them to care about preserving this rare ecological and historical gem.”
Folmer says he has found his dream job at the Discovery Center, because it has so many aspects that mesh with his interests and expertise. Although he was able to speak only in generalities, Folmer said he had some ideas for expanding programs and opportunities available at the center.
“I’m hitting the ground running,” he said. “I’ve got a lot to learn, but I’m feeling really positive, and I think we’re making a lot of progress.”
By Anne Hayden
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