Construction has begun on the new Beatrice G. Donofrio Environmental Education Complex at Clarkson’s Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries on Dennings Point in Beacon, NY.
The brand new world-class education and research facility is made possible through the generous support of the Donofrio family in memory of their mother, Beatrice G. Donofrio. The new complex will empower academic innovation, research, enhance partnerships, and include all stages of the K-12 experience to educate and inspire the next generation of STEM professionals. The goal of the project is to ensure that all learners, regardless of resources or financial capacity, have access to and the ability to embrace the natural environment as a learning classroom.
The new structure, expected to take two years to complete, will house innovative citizen science laboratories where the public will experience Clarkson’s healthy water initiatives firsthand. It will also serve as headquarters for scientific research on the Hudson River while providing a collaborative space for environmental conferences and professional education.
The Donofrio Center will also be home to an extensive oral history collection and a series of traveling and permanent museum exhibits. First and foremost is a series of interviews of the Donofrio family with a highlight on Beatrice Donofrio and her children: Francis, Nicholas, Elvira, and Gloria. Work is already commencing on obtaining 40 interviews of energy workers in the Hudson River Valley with a special focus on their engineering, management, and technological skills. Next, the oral history collection will examine how people of color utilized Dennings Point State Park and the broader Hudson River during the late 20th century. The Institute also inherited several boxes of archaeological artifacts from Vassar College that date back to the early 19th century. All of these amazing artifacts, interviews, and displays will be on view for the public in the Donofrio Center’s new public outreach wing.
Several portions of the Beacon campus capital project have already been completed, including the Denning’s Point Road Bridge rehabilitation and Shoreland Trail improvements. Next, a solar array, parking garage and public pavilion will be constructed, along with the renovation of an abandoned two-story, 40,000-square-foot former paper clip factory. This building will transform into the new Hudson Valley Clarkson University campus, home to our Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries.
This capital project is twofold. Upon full buildout, Clarkson students will have access to a world-class learning environment and the highest caliber of faculty, staff and facilities. In addition, a state-of-the-art laboratory will serve as a central hub for advanced research to support the New York state-designed Center of Excellence in Healthy Water Solutions. The research will center around emerging contaminants, invasive species, best practices for resilience planning, and more.
Phase I will create:
Administrative office and workspace for staff, faculty, and researchers.
A technically advanced classroom
A new welcome center that will feature historical and ecological exhibits.
Phase II will complete the campus with:
Two additional classrooms.
A flexible field station/research space.
A multipurpose space for conferences, events, and expanded programming.
Technology and equipment for each space.
The Institute is also opening a new “Habitat Walk” exhibit at the Water Ecology Center this fall, including live animals native to Hudson River ecosystems. The exhibit will be open to weekend public visitors, and to weekday school groups, and will be used to pilot curriculum and programs for the River Education grant project.
Clarkson’s Beacon Institute conducts environmental research and a wide range of public outreach and K-12 enrichment programs. CU-BIRE staff and interns have been conducting field surveys of invasive and native plant species throughout 2020, in order to create a draft management plan for Denning’s Point Park. Public citizen science events this fall will include “Beach Cleanup” marine debris cataloging and removal at the park’s Hudson River beaches, and “Walk & Talk” trainings to identify native and invasive tree and plant species. In July, CU-BIRE adopted a live native animal collection to augment the development of updated river and estuary education exhibits at the Water Ecology Center. This month, CU-BIRE will host several outdoor and virtual programs with Beacon and Newburgh public middle school students to align with NYSDEC’s annual “Day in the LIfe of the Hudson River”.
Dennings Point is a 64-acre peninsula jutting into the Hudson River and part of the Hudson Highlands State Park of the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP). Since 2003, OPRHP and the Beacon Institute have maintained a unique and valuable partnership on Dennings Point.