SHERBURNE – The 33rd annual Winter Living Celebration at Rogers Environmental Education Center in Sherburne was greeted with good weather Sunday as more than a thousand came in a show of support to keep the center from closing.
The celebration was sponsored by the non-profit group, The Friends of Rogers Inc. and organized by the center’s Department of Environmental Conservation staff, whose jobs will be eliminated by Dec. 31 as part of Governor David Paterson’s plan to save $250 million by laying off 898 state workers.
The event was rescheduled from its regular January date after organizers were informed in November by the DEC that the center’s buildings and public facilities would be shuttered at the end of the year.
Rogers Director Marsha Guzewich, whose position is also being cut, said the notice came as a shock to those working there.
This weekend’s celebration, which has been a three-decade tradition, became a final opportunity for supporters to bid Rogers one last farewell. It was the center’s last scheduled event of the year, and may be the last one ever.
Rogers was established as New York’s first game farm in 1909 and its original DEC Director, John Weeks, recalled when the agency first began operating wildlife and nature educational programs in 1968.
“Rogers had long been a game farm when it was closed down for a short period of time. Even back then, the community was devastated and also just like now, people fought to keep it open,” he said. Weeks explained that a number of community organizations stepped forward to support the game farm until the state stepped in. He said those organizations convinced the state to conduct a feasibility study at the game farm, which later led to the decision to create the Rogers Environmental Education Center run by the state.
Weeks served as the facility’s first director until 1973...