Letchworth State Park

Major Grant Shows Strong Regional Support for Exciting Upstate Project

Image Credit: Jim Vallee

Albany, NY - October 2, 2014 – The Campaign for the Letchworth State Park Nature Center announced that The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation has awarded a $375,000 grant toward the building of a new state-of-the-art nature center at Letchworth State Park.

The Wendt grant is awarded to the Open Space Institute, which, through its Alliance for New York State Parks program, applied for the funding and is a leading partner of the Letchworth Nature Center campaign.

The new facility is being developed through a robust public-private partnership to help visitors better appreciate and understand the magnificence of Letchworth State Park, one of Western New York’s most spectacular and recognizable natural, cultural and recreational landscapes. The popular park, which serves over 750,000 visitors a year, has long needed a permanent and engaging facility for educational programing and interpretation.

In recognition of the gift, the center’s chief exhibit space will be named the “Margaret L. Wendt Hall.” With more than $1 million in private contributions raised to date, the Wendt Foundation commitment marks another major advancement in meeting the campaign fundraising goal of $2 million.

Speaking on behalf of his fellow Trustees, Thomas Lunt and Janet Loew Day, Robert Kresse, Secretary/Trustee said, “Letchworth State Park is one of Western New York’s most defining scenic and historic settings. The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation is pleased to contribute to a wonderful, new attraction that will make this premier landscape more enjoyable and engaging for generations to come.”

“We are honored and grateful to receive this significant contribution from The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation,” said campaign chair Peter Humphrey, who also serves as chair of the Genesee Region State Parks Commission.

Support from such a prestigious community partner underscores the importance of the Letchworth Nature Center for all of Western New York. The success of this campaign to date, and the range of donors who have supported our efforts, reinforces our commitment to meeting our goal and building this new feature at Letchworth State Park.” 

As the main exhibit space at the Letchworth Nature Center, The Margaret L. Wendt Hall will provide a venue to educate visitors specifically about the park’s natural history and existing environmental conditions. The four-season building will also serve as a hub from which to venture out and enjoy the richness of the Letchworth experience.

Letchworth State Park is unquestionably one of New York’s greatest natural treasures,” said Erik Kulleseid, executive director of the Alliance. “The new nature center will deepen the visitor experience and enhance the park’s standing as one of our greatest tourism and recreation destinations.”

With 750,000 visitors each year and roughly 35,000 people participating in the park’s interpretive program, Letchworth has lacked a dedicated, year-round facility to provide a comprehensive introduction to its spectacular geology and unique flora, fauna and animal life.

In 2013, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) joined OSI, the Natural Heritage Trust, the State University of New York at Geneseo, the Genesee Commission and the Friends of Letchworth State Park to establish a nature center befitting the spectacular setting. Commissioner Rose Harvey has challenged the partners with a 2:1 state match for the $2 million to be raised privately. The overall cost of the project is $6 million, which includes custom exhibits and $1 million for a sustaining endowment to ensure the ongoing operation of this facility.

The State’s two-third share is expected to come from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s New York Works Park Capital Improvement fund and State grants, including a $288,000 design grant secured by OSI from the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council in 2013. A spring, 2015 groundbreaking is expected and the Nature Center is scheduled to open in spring, 2016.

The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation is a private, philanthropic organization that focuses its work in Western New York and is devoted to the development of a stronger Western New York Community.

The Genesee Region State Parks Commission was created in 1930 and serves as a central advisory body on matters affecting state parks, within the Genesee Region of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Commission members are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate for seven-year terms. The Governor designates the chair of each Commission.

A program of the Open Space Institute, the Alliance for New York State Parks is committed to the restoration, maintenance and support of New York’s state parks and historic sites. A primary goal of the Alliance is to build stronger public-private partnerships to revitalize the New York State Park system; as part of that effort, the Alliance raises private funds to support this work.

About the Campaign for the Letchworth State Park Nature Center
The Campaign for the Letchworth State Park Nature Center is a public/private partnership with plans to erect a 4.8 million dollar Nature Center on Letchworth State Park grounds. The result of nearly 5 years of planning, the Letchworth Nature Center will be a 5,000 square foot, year-round, sustainable facility that will offer educational and interpretive programming to the 750,000 visitors that Letchworth welcomes through it’s gates each year. Meeting and classroom space, a research lab, and state-of-the-art exhibits are included in the design of the center – all of which will enhance the visitor’s understanding of the unique history, geology, and environment found in Letchworth State Park.

What You Can Do

Donate to support OSI’s work

Become a part of our mission to safeguard at-risk places through your tax-deductible gift.


Subscribe to our newsletter

We get in touch once a month with our most important news, stories, and updates.