Those who have long enjoyed hiking, biking and other activities at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve can now learn more about its ecosystem at the newly opened Discovery Center.
Before today, there was no starting point, no destination for visitors of the preserve, said Christopher Hawver, executive director of the Preserve Commission, at the ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday, June 14.
The center, located at 195 New Karner Road in Albany, officially opened on Saturday, June 16.
It will offer a number of interactive exhibits, animal programs and other services designed to educate visitors about the 3,010 acres of the protected inland pine barrens ecosystem spanning parts of Guilderland, Colonie and Albany.
"It is just an absolutely fantastic structure," said Mary Brizzell, Colonie town supervisor, at the ceremony. "I just can't tell you what an excitement this will be for the schoolchildren who come here."
The first students to visit the Discovery Center were a group of Farnsworth Middle School seventh graders who have spent the year learning about the local ecosystem and volunteering at the preserve.
"My sister is 6 years old, and I can't wait to bring her here," said Mike Dvorscak, 13, of Guilderland. "It'll teach a lot of kids about what's here in the community, and it's fun."
The middle schoolers said they liked the interactive exhibits, such as the story recording area and a sand lab where visitors can explore different soil types and learn about sand creatures.
"I thought it was really unique here in that it's more hands-on," said Xingyu Wei, 13, of Altamont. "Museums always have those signs that say, 'Look, don't touch.'"
Teachers said the Discovery Center will make it easier to introduce students to the preserve.
"Now we have a place to start," said Alan Fiero, a seventh-grade science teacher at Farnsworth. "It's going to really help us to focus."