The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission has announced that a key post has been re-filled with the hiring of Jeffrey Folmer as the new Discovery Center Director. According to Christopher Hawver, Executive Director of the Commission, “This marks a major turning point for the Discovery Center’s future, particularly with respect to engaging the public in our mission.”
The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission was created by the New York State Legislature in 1988 to protect and manage the unique and endangered natural communities and species of the Albany Pine Bush for ecological, recreational and educational benefits. The Albany Pine Bush Preserve offers one of the best examples of an inland pine barrens environment remaining in the world, and the gateway to the Preserve is through the Discovery Center, sponsored by Trustco.
Hawver said, “The Discovery Center has been put through its paces since opening less than five years ago. We have hosted over 50,000 visitors and our education staff has led more than 1,100 programs. With a new Director comes the opportunity for even greater growth on a number of levels for which we are now well-positioned.”
The crucial significance of the task which lies ahead is not lost on the new Discovery Center Director. Folmer said, “The Albany Pine Bush is an incredible ecological gem that happens to be rich in both geological and cultural history as well. It supports a variety of species (many threatened or endangered) and provides the public with truly unique recreational and educational options that they will not find anywhere else. Getting people to care deeply about preserving the Pine Bush is a critical part of my job.”
The Discovery Center houses a state-of-the-art interactive visitor center which serves as the central point of contact for the public. It also functions as the headquarters for Commission staff, as well as the State and Eastern NY Chapters of The Nature Conservancy, and provides space for the non-profit Friends of the Pine Bush Community. Opened in 2007, the Discovery Center was awarded the prestigious LEED® “Gold” certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. With unique interpretive exhibits, educational programs, the Discovery Shop, and the exterior Discovery Trail – part of an 18-mile trail system throughout the Preserve – the Discovery Center is designed to engage visitors of all ages.
Folmer said he was “…astounded by the superior quality of my first visit to the Discovery Center and with free admission (a small fee does apply to special programs), it’s a simply a ‘must-see’. I decided I must make it my personal mission to draw people here from near and far.”
Folmer’s diverse background lends itself to the multi-faceted duties that go with the job. With a B.S. in Environmental Science, he worked for 12 years at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection where he was Section Chief in the Bureau of Community Relations. He subsequently spent four years at the National Audubon Society based in New York City as the national director of a fundraising and education program. He also worked at each of the following: the American Cancer Society in Meriden, Connecticut where he was Community Executive for Development; The Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, Massachusetts as Director of Development; and as a Middle School science teacher also in Pittsfield. Most recently, he was the Executive Director of Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum in Lenox, Massachusetts, where under his leadership of four and one-half years the museum grew by leaps and bounds, especially with regard to public outreach.
“Among my goals for the Discovery Center,” Folmer notes, “is to provide the leadership to substantially increase our public profile. This unique treasure should be widely known not only in our local communities, but should also be a destination for visitors from all over. I plan to increase the number and scope of our programs, expand or enhance indoor and outdoor interpretive exhibits, increase revenue through a variety of approaches, work with the non-profit Friends of the Pine Bush Community, and especially to be open to developing new ideas. I enjoy the creative process and it’s clear to me that I have a terrific team to work with.”
Located within the Capital District Region, the Albany Pine Bush’s gently rolling sand plain is home to a variety of rare plants and animals, including the Federally-endangered Karner blue butterfly. The 3,200-acre Albany Pine Bush Preserve also creates a special habitat for a number of other rare and unique plants and animals, while providing visitors with an assortment of non-motorized recreational opportunities including hiking, jogging, nature study, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting, fishing and canoeing.
Folmer adds, “I am certain that as more and more people come to know and love the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, they will come to understand the importance of playing a role in our mission here.”
The Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center transforms this globally unique destination into an exciting adventure where learning comes naturally through hands-on activities. As the gateway to the Pine Bush, the Discovery Center introduces visitors to everything that makes the Preserve rare and adventurous. With the help of many volunteers, the Discovery Center offers monthly outings and programs about the ecology, natural and cultural history of the Pine Bush area. Admission is free. The Center is open Tuesday-Friday 9AM-4PM, Saturday and Sunday 10AM-4PM, and on most holiday Mondays. The Center is also available for private parties and meeting rentals. For more information call 518-456-0655.
The public is invited to a “Meet and Greet” Open House at the Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center located at 195 New Karner Road in Albany on March 20, 2012 from 5:30pm – 7:00pm. Guests will have the opportunity to enjoy the exhibits, plus light refreshments and a conversation with Jeffrey about his plans for future growth of the Discovery Center. RSVP by calling 518-456-0655 or email firstname.lastname@example.org