Green Lakes Center Offers Children a Unique Connection to Nature

The Green Lakes State Park Educational Center is closed on one dreary, cold morning of December, but that doesn’t keep Katie Mulverhill, environmental educator, from turning away the few people that trickle in to see what the building is all about.

“Feel free to look around,” she says to one gentleman as she sits on a cushioned bench overlooking Green Lakes State Park.

The overcast scene viewed from the educational center is like a postcard. The minimal rays of sunshine that peak through the clouds hit the lake just right, illuminating its rare, two-toned appearance. The horizon is home to many bare-boned trees and historic infrastructure as scores of geese are heard bawking at one another as they glide to a screeching halt into the water.

There are only 11 meromictic lakes in the country and about 30 worldwide, including Green Lakes meromictic lakes have a top layer of water and a bottom layer of water and those two layers never mix together.

“Green Lakes is a really rare type of lake,” said Mulverhill. “That is why we want to talk about it and explain what we are doing to help protect it.”

What was once a 1940s boat house at Green Lakes has now been transformed into a facility to house park events as well as enhance the park’s environmental education programs. The historic building was relocated away from the water’s edge to undergo a $6 million facelift. Renovations included the addition of an indoor multipurpose space, interactive exhibits, restrooms, an outdoor classroom, lakefront boardwalk, canoe/kayak launch, a new boat rental facility, and storage racks.

The new facility is widening the park’s offerings for learning.

“It’s important to get the younger generation connected to their natural spaces,” said Mulverhill. “Green Lakes is perfect because it’s so close to Syracuse and we know that there are a lot of children in that area that are missing out on that connection. It’s crucial to get them to a really beautiful natural setting like Green Lakes to learn about and appreciate nature.”

A Central New York Community Foundation grant awarded from the John F. Marsellus Fund was used to develop and install interpretive exhibits that showcase the unique natural features of the lakes. Friends and family of John F. Marsellus, the third generation of his family to manage the Marsellus Casket Company in Syracuse, remember him as a civic leader who truly loved Central New York. His estate plan included naming the Community Foundation in his will as a major beneficiary. His fund supports projects that promote education, the arts, centers of learning, recreation, environmental conservation, local children and health care accessibility. Over the past 15 years, it has supported nearly 1,000 local charitable programs.

Green Lakes’ new signs are giving students the opportunity for a hands-on learning experience that Mr. Marsellus would have approved of.

“I think there is a lot you can teach about nature that’s hard to teach in a classroom,” said Mulverhill. “It is often when young people get out and experience it for themselves that those pieces start falling into place.”

Green Lakes State Park hosts approximately 1,500 students each year. Mulverhill is excited to see those numbers go up as word slowly trickles out. However, it’s their ignited excitement and passion that makes it all worth it as an educator.

“When you can see that something they’ve heard in the classroom translates out here, it confirms they are learning. And that’s really fun,” said Mulverhill.

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