trailside museum, 75 years in pound ridge reserve
Many visitors to the sprawling Ward Pound Ridge Reservation may not be aware of the rich history behind the Trailside Nature Museum, which resides on the grounds. It is one of the oldest nature centers in the country, and will mark its 75th anniversary in June.
The museum got its start thanks to Eloise Payne Luquer and Delia West Marble, members of the Bedford Garden Club, who went to Washington, DC, and petitioned the Department of the Interior to build a museum on the natural space of the Reservation. In 1937, just before World War II, the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) built the museum.
The original part of the small museum housed what visitors might find along the Reservation’s trails—mounted birds and animals, rocks and minerals, plants, and artifacts.
In 1976, its caretakers added an education building for programs and groups. Today, thousands of students come through every year for stream study, maple-sugar making, geology, and a popular Native American program. John Jay High School even offers a wilderness class there three times per week. The museum also has weekend programs for all ages.
“A lot of lives have been changed by coming through here. It’s education and awareness of what a good, healthy environment provides,” says Beth Herr, a longtime volunteer with the museum. “And it houses rich and well-documented history.” Herr says visitors come to the museum to get recommendations for a hike, and then come back afterwards to ask questions on what they saw when they were out.
In late 2011, the Trailside Museum, as well as the five other nature centers in Westchester County, were in jeopardy due to countywide budget cuts. “The community rallied—five year olds to 85 year olds spoke out. Such an outcry, and the funding was reinstated,” says Herr.
Museum volunteers also take a great amount of pride in the Wildflower Garden, which was added in 1954, and is home to at least thirty different species of wildflowers. While formal anniversary celebrations are being planned for early fall, we’re told the best time to see the wildflowers is in May.