BETHLEHEM Shorter days and cooler nights are hearkening not only the changing of the seasons, but a new session of outdoor fun and learning at the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center.
Just as in past years, the start of the fall season will be kicked off with a free festival at the popular nature preserve. Though there will be activities for all ages, the Fall Festival is definitely kid oriented, with plenty of stations and activities to entertain youngsters and teach them a thing or two about the natural world.
A collaborative effort between the Friends of Five Rivers group and the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Fall Festival usually draws over 2,000 visitors to the preserve.
“The festival itself is designed to get families there to actually see the area, to experience some of the things they'll see in an outdoor classroom right there,” said Jan Messina of the Friends of Five Rivers.
Returning favorites include eco-crafts, live animals (with experienced animal rehabilitators), juggling, puppet shows, astronomy, a GPS game, fly casting, “The Incredible Journey” of a water droplet, and the “Insect Safari” with trained naturalists. There are also naturalist-led family hikes at regular intervals, featuring geology, botany, and wildlife.
This year's special event will be a treasure hunt leading kids through the event's nature-themed events to a prize.
For the adults, master gardeners will be on hand to advise on nature-friendly gardening at the center’s Wildlife Garden, and NYSERDA representatives will provide green building and technology advice.
Friends of Five Rivers will also be holding a membership drive at the festival in anticipation of the preserve's 40th anniversary next year (though the land was used for other purposed prior to the opening of the facility that exists today).
Much of the educational programming at the center is volunteer driven through the Friends of Five Rivers, who work with the small staff there.
“We've had a long and very complimentary and very friendly relationship with DEC, and we look forward to another 40 years,” Messina said.
Five Rivers is open year-round, and has over 10 miles of hiking, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing trails for public use on its 450 acres. Thousands of students take field trips to the center every school year.
The Fall Festival will take place from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17, rain or shine. Parking is free and there is no admission fee, though food, drinks, gifts and other items will be on sale.