The new visitor center at the Bayard Cutting Arboretum, which...

The new visitor center at the Bayard Cutting Arboretum, which held its grand opening Monday. Credit: Tom Lambui

The oak tree is among the most crucial trees on the planet, known for its support of wildlife, including birds, mammals and humans.

More than 40 species of oak trees, including some that are endangered, are part of a historic collection at the Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Great River, which emphasizes the importance of conserving these species.

“We are an important academic anchor for data with tree conservation [and] we’re growing trees here that are endangered in other areas,” Kevin Weeks, the director of Bayard Cutting Arboretum said. “So we liken ourselves as a museum of trees.”

The leaders of Bayard Cutting Arboretum unveiled their new visitor center Monday, a place that will provide visitors with a new immersive experience that highlights the area’s biodiversity and the importance of preserving the stately oak, upon which birds, reptiles, mammals, and insects rely for their survival. 

Some 500,000 people are drawn to the area annually for its beauty and greenery.

“This 1,600-square-foot visitor center really becomes a gateway to this majestic property,” Commissioner of New York State Parks Randy Simons said.

Bridging the scenery of the 691-acre arboretum to its history, the visitor center will help guests learn about the family behind the property along with the impacts of climate change.

In 1936, the Cutting family donated the property to the Long Island State Park Commission to provide rest and refreshment for those who enjoy outdoor beauty. Eighteen years later, the Bayard Cutting Arboretum State Park opened to the public.

The visitor center also includes a gift shop with fresh eggs, flowers, books, and apparel. There are exhibitions inside that illustrate the work and history of the arboretum.

Weeks said that although the facility’s interior is appealing, its purpose is to get people to experience the outdoors.

“The point isn’t necessarily to get people in the visitor center, the point is to get people outside and enjoy the landscape,” he said.

Joy Arden, the arboretum's landscape curator, said the center's predominantly glass design is a way to make guests feel they are still outside.

“We wanted the building to be fully glass windows so that when you were inside, you still felt like you were in nature,” Arden said.

Along with the new visitor center, the project included restrooms and a new parking areas.

The facility also serves to ease stress from other areas of the park, including the historic manor house.

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