Jamestown, N.Y.Instead of an annual dinner, Audubon Community Nature Center (ACNC) staff chose to close their 2018-2019 fiscal year and welcome 2019-2020 with a New Year’s Eve Party. 

Presided over by Executive Director Leigh Rovegno, the annual meeting was a casual event that included food and beverages, reflections on the past year, sharing of  “resolutions” for the year ahead, and a wrap-up of board elections. Operations Manager Jennifer Schlick’s colorful powerpoint presentation guided the evening’s program.

During ACNC’s 2018-2019 year, Audubon nature educators made 15,411 student contacts in 48 schools in Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, and Warren Counties. More than 800 visitors came to August’s Monarch Butterfly Festival, and participation in the new Dragons, Fairies, and Elves, Oh My! festival in June exceeded all expectations. Both fundraising and new member goals were surpassed. 

Recognitions of the importance of unstructured nature play included the donation by Mike Whitmire of Whitmire Outdoor Living of Tank the (12-foot long, 1500 pound concrete) Turtle to the outdoor Nature Play Area, the acquisition of the portable pop-up nature play area, Nature Play Days supported by the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation Legacy Funds from the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, the Play Workshop: a series of training sessions with local childhood development professor from Edinboro University, Karen Lindeman, and “The Field Guide to Nature Play”: a document created by ACNC educators to help parents/teachers/caregivers understand how to promote unstructured play for their children to stimulate mental, physical, and emotional development.

Buildings and grounds accomplishments included significant repairs to ACNC’s 3 Sisters Trail and Hemlock Bridge to prevent future flooding. Spatterdock Bridge was raised to a higher level after many years of sinking into the mud. New trail way-finding signs were installed thanks to contributions to Audubon through the Chautauqua Give Big program. New roadside and highway signs along Route 62 and an Audubon billboard on Route 394 were erected.

MVP Awards were presented to Board Treasurer Bob Klebacha, Board Member Tim Piotrowski, and ACNC Education Coordinator Sarah Hatfield for special projects and responsibilities each took on this past year. 

Appreciation was extended to four board members who completed their years of service: Wendy Bale, John Beard, Rose Stark, and Nate Welker.

Continuing board members Willow Fodor, Andrew Harrington, Robert Klebacha, Penny Lester, Greg Lyle, Tim Piotrowski, Joseph Rollman, and Tim Smeal were joined by newly elected members Louise Boutwell, Dave Burlee, Linnea Carlson, Piper VanOrd, and Brittany Wilcox.

A resident of Randolph, N.Y., Boutwell has been an active ACNC volunteer and supporter since she retired from being a secondary school counselor in 2014. 

As an avid outdoorsman and sportsman, Mayville, N.Y., resident Burlee has led various environmental initiatives where he works at Cummins Jamestown Engine Plant. 

Living in Frewsburg, N.Y., Carlson has held several roles in Chautauqua County focused on social justice programs and is currently manager of the Jamestown Public Market, working for sustainable food environments. 

One of the founding members of the annual Allegheny River Clean-up, Warren, Pa., resident VanOrd moved home from Alaska in 2006 to begin the journey that has become Allegheny Outfitters, providing outdoor gear and services. 

A graduate of Pittsburgh Technical Institute living in Youngsville, Pa., Wilcox is a member of the Youngsville American Legion Auxiliary and has been with Northwest Bank for 10 years.

The recognition of Audubon volunteers that used to be part of the annual dinner will now take place at the Volunteer Breakfast in the spring. 

Audubon Community Nature Center builds and nurtures connections between people and nature by providing positive outdoor experiences, opportunities to learn about and understand the natural world, and knowledge to act in environmentally responsible ways. Visit at 1600 Riverside Road, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown, N.Y., and Warren, Pa., or online at AudubonCNC.org.