Friends of Five Rivers gets $31K grant

— Photo from Friends of Five Rivers

Children learn about nature at Five Rivers with school groups taught by certified volunteers.


BETHLEHEM — Joanne Macklin, executive director of the Friends of Five Rivers, says the not-for-profit organization is building stewards of the Earth, one person at a time.

The group last month received a state grant for $31,500 to hire an outreach and development coordinator.

The state grant is one of 22 — totaling $450,000 — going to organizations that promote or protect New York State parks, historic sites and public lands. The Park and Trail Partnership Program grants, funded through the Environmental Protection Fund, will be matched by more than $150,000 in private and local funding, according to a release from the governor’s office.

“We wrote the grant to hire another administrative person,” Macklin said. “I’m here just part-time and it’s getting to be too much,” she said, listing executive director duties, accounting duties, and fundraising.

“Our school programs have become extremely popular,” she went on. “We’re having to turn schools away.”

Guided outdoor lessons are provided to over 3,000 schoolchildren each year.

Macklin is currently advertising to fill the new full-time post, for 35 hours per week. The job, she said, will be two-fold: increasing the volunteer base and raising more funds.

Currently, the Friends have 50 or 60 volunteers, she said. The staff consists of herself and two environmental educators; one works full-time and the other part-time.

Fifteen volunteers are trained for the guided school program, Macklin said. “Most of them aren’t teachers,” she said. “They go through training to become certified. We keep up with all the schools’ curriculum needs”

Since the program meets Common Core standards, Macklin said, “The teachers can check things off their checklist.”

Other projects run by the Friends of Five Rivers include Family Fun, “linking parents or guardians, or lately mostly grandparents, with 2- to 4-year-olds for hands-on learning, all based on a story,” Macklin said, and Talk and Trek, which is for adults and involves guided walks based on science.

“The seniors love it,” said Macklin.

She concluded of Five Rivers, “It’s a beautiful, amazing place.”

The Friends of Five Rivers was incorporated as Five Rivers Limited in 1972 when the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation converted the Delmar Game Farm into Five Rivers Environmental Education Center.

Of the Friends, she said, “We work well in partnership with the New York State DEC staff.”

She went on, “It’s wonderful to see children — and adults, too — their enthusiasm for nature, building stewards of the environment.”

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