Peeping a welcome open house at CEED

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The bobwhite quail babies peeped up a storm in their tank, a kind of “Welcome to the Center for Environmental Education & Discovery’s newly renovated Woodland Hall!” announcement on Sunday, as folks stepped in for CEED’s Washington Lodge Open House.

While CEED’s programs have been percolating for several years, the public was welcomed for the first time to tour CEED’s interior. A $35,000 fire detection system installation throughout the entire building and its subsequent fire marshal approval was necessary before people and programs could populate the inside regularly; that was completed after a two-year journey in February.

The culmination means that that now, outdoor programs can be conducted indoors during inclement weather as well as talks, workshops, and classes.

Edward Smith, from East Patchogue, was the first guest to walk through the entrance. A big birder, he spoke with CEED co-founder, program and site director Eric Powers about the chirping avians. “I saw the article in the Advance and decided to come,” he said.

“There are 30 of them,” explained CEED executive director Sally Wellinger. “They hatched the Tuesday after Mother’s Day.”  The new babes eat bird food grinded up in a blender; they need a lot of protein, and insects are their food choice, Wellinger added.

“I spoke to a dozen people about them,” said Powers of the interest. “Some were familiar with our program. We’re trying to repopulate the area with native bobwhite quail; they’ve been decimated by people letting their cats out.”

Some sprucing up was necessary before the open house. The entryway got a new floor; in the 875-square-foot room, the wood floors were cleaned and buffed. Walls were sheetrocked, and ceilings had been repaired and painted a soft green. “There were holes in the ceiling from racoons, but we couldn’t fix them until the fire detection wiring was in place,” explained board chair Tom Pelletier.  As for the spruce-up, “a major part of the $10,000 cost was donated by Lisa Anderson, the vice chair of the board. She made the donation in memory of her mother, who was a teacher who loved nature and the environment.”

There were also new windows downstairs, framing the outside—the leafy forest surrounding the old Washington Lodge house off South Country Road in Brookhaven hamlet—21 in total, the result of a NYS grant and the Town of Brookhaven. CEED leases the building from Brookhaven Town.

It’s a one-room-at-a-time progress here with CEED, launched to the community in 2016. As a not-for-profit, they have to proceed in steps, introducing programs and addressing infrastructure as well as plans for outside, a virtual wooded wonderland especially for kids, where an owl baby made its recent debut. It means fundraising and grant applications.

A “let’s pitch in” attitude, not only with staff and board members but also volunteers, exists here.  Eight hardy folks, including Pelletier as well as staffers Powers and Wellington, lifted brushes, pushed floor cleaners, got up on ladders.

Volunteer and supporter Marie Gocs drove from Yaphank for the open house and walked in the door right after Smith, the birder. Gocs is 92. She was among those who started the Middle Island Yaphank Defenders of the Environment in the 1970s. “We hired environmental attorney Victor Yannacone,” she said. “I live right on the Carmans River. We worked with Art Cooley, and his young students took water samples from the Carmans and biked up to Albany with them to show its pollution.” The Carmans River was ultimately designated a Wild and Scenic Recreational River by New York State.

Ultimately, 60 visited the stately old building on a pretty spring night. And about 25 people signed up for the special lunar eclipse program with Dave Bush of the Vanderbilt Planetarium.

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