Cumming Nature Center

Many years ago, while teaching junior high school science, a colleague suggested a field trip for our students that would provide them with a true wilderness experience. The place he had in mind offered a variety of interesting nature trails and guided tours. The place … Cumming Nature Center in the Bristol Hills. It took only one trip for me, my colleagues and students to absolutely fall in love with this delightful place. It offers a magical intimacy between people and outdoor life.

Cumming Nature Center encompasses approximately 900 acres of land, characterized by a wide variety of plant species, several creeks and ponds, and six miles of themed hiking trails. Beaver Trail, for instance, highlights nature cycles, and Pioneer focuses on the life of early settlers.

From late December through March, there are 15 miles of groomed trails for cross country skiing, and for hearty individuals, a two-mile snowshoe loop. Guided walking tours are available at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., but you are welcome to take walks on your own.

Along with its natural beauty and serenity, Cumming Nature Center is a terrific educational experience for young and old alike. Programs are available for both elementary and middle-school students. Teachers and environmental educators can even design their own program to best suit the needs of their classes. How about touring an 18th-century homestead and a sawmill? Would you like to learn how a “sugarhouse” operates?

You will find numerous examples of plant succession and food webs, and the importance of conservation is emphasized. You’ll get a chance to witness the interaction of plants and animals while traversing Beaver Trail. You can find many examples of living communities at Cumming Nature Center.

Inside the Visitors Center are a variety of exhibits, including preserved creatures and a huge tank filled with painted turtles. Beautiful murals depict natural habitats. You will even find a theater experience!

Special events
Cumming sponsors several fun events throughout the year, beginning in February with “Hot Dog Days,” which benefits the Genesee Valley Nordic Ski Patrol (they help monitor the center’s trails). Visitors can dine on hot dogs, chili, cider and cookies.

“Moonlight skiing” is offered one Saturday night, and it’s a very exhilarating activity indeed. This spooky experience begins at approximately 5:45 p.m. You ski by lantern light and, at the end of the adventure, enjoy a fine buffet dinner in the beautiful Visitors Center.

One of the most notable events focuses on maple sugaring, and takes place both on the last weekend in March and first weekend in April. It was once done by the Haudenosaunee, along with other pioneers of the region. Visitors tour a number of outdoor stations, each of which is hosted by volunteers. Some stations include a hands-on activity, especially delightful for children. You may also tour the maple sugar house. By doing so, you get a real feel for what early settlers had to endure just to capture and process raw materials into things like sugar.

The maple sugar weekends are also characterized by a wonderful pancake breakfast for all participants. Funds from this event are used to help support the center.

Fall culminates with a timber sports competition, held in October.
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Cumming Nature Center, located at 6472 Gulick Road in Naples (14512) is a pleasant 40-minute trip from downtown Rochester. Traveling via routes 64 or 21 south provides exhilarating views of the region. Once you reach Naples, signs guide you to the center. For other, more direct routes, visit the center’s website, www.rmsc.org.

The center is open to the public on weekends only. Snacks and restrooms are available.

For more information, call 585- 374-6160.


by Ron and Collette Stochl
Ron Stochl is a retired teacher who instructs digital photography for the Rush Henrietta and Gates Chili Continuing Education programs. He and his wife Collette also operate a small photography business. Visit their website, www.stochlimaging.com or call them at 585-233-4018.