The kitchen needed a decent ceiling, it was noticed, while Lovey, the white dove, cooed in the next room. Led by CEED executive director Sally Wellinger with board member Lori Zaikowski, New York State Sen. Alexis Weik toured the Center for Environmental Education & Discovery’s 7,280-square-foot building, built in the late-1800s, as well as part of the 9.6-acre grounds last week. A good sport with a soft spot for animals, Weik petted a ferret and a chinchilla; she was gracious about Lovey landing briefly atop her head.
“I’m very much in favor of what we can do environmentally,” said Weik, asking questions along the way.
Weik had come to CEED’s Brookhaven headquarters for an in-depth tour, but also to sign a letter of support for CEED’s grant application to the New York State Regional Economic Development Councils (NYREDC) Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) for Parks.
The project estimate is $915,400, but CEED has requested $500,000. The nonprofit is required to match a percentage.
CEED’s grant application had a big list of needed improvements. The plan was to overhaul the building and grounds with ADA-compliant measures so that those in wheelchairs or people hampered by walking challenges, along with moms pushing strollers, can enjoy the grounds and take classes. But also, building renovations on the main portion of the first floor would enable indoor programs, meetings, and nature activities. Nature programs are mostly conducted outdoors now, limiting CEED’s growth.
Wellinger and Eric Powers, who is CEED’s cofounder, program and site director as well as a biologist, provided input along the way up the three floors. Powers lives in the CEED building and is steward of the animals. He had set up a virtual studio in his office on the third floor for programs. Wellinger showed a small, pretty room facing South Country Road next to it that had been renovated, including roof repair, thanks to a $10,000 private donation.
“That’s what the whole place will eventually look like,” Wellinger said of the cream-painted walls, repaired vintage molding and floors. A room with a poster of Washington’s Prepared Coffee was in view. The place was formerly known as the Washington Lodge, named after George Constant Washington, who purchased the estate in 1915; he invented mass-produced instant coffee.
Weik followed Wellinger and Powers along the leafy, woodchipped half-mile trail to the pool installed by Washington, the largest concrete pool on the Atlantic coast back then, now a cracked empty surface. A time capsule created by the Bay Community School was nearby.
“What are you doing with the hillside?” Weik asked.
“There’s a nice flat space we could put a boardwalk back there,” Powers said, adding accessibility for wheelchairs. Powers talked about the possibility of a raised boardwalk leading from the half-mile trail over a large beech tree’s many roots.
“People are looking at places to visit and hike outside,” pointed out Weik, a hiker herself.
Wellinger explained that CEED’s vision of the pool is to turn it into an outdoor classroom, meeting area. The renovation in the grant included transforming the “deep end” into a bird-friendly native plant rain garden area, observable from the proposed deck in the woods with a 4-foot walkway around the fenced-in garden.
Weik looked over the property, taking in the raised beds for vegetables grown without pesticides, with high grasses surrounding the beds from animal munchers, as well as the Eagle Scout fire pit. “You could spend all day here,” she said, adding that this was the sole nature center in her district. Weik promised to do what she could, as chickens Henrietta and Captain Janeaway huddled nearby.