Discovery Campus of the Finger Lakes Museum unveiled

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express
The proposed entry for The Finger Lakes Museum 'Discovery Campus' at the former Branchport Elementary School.

The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council unveiled design plans and an online virtual tour of The Finger Lakes Museum’s Discovery Campus, the first phase of a transformation project along Keuka Lake, at a reception hosted May 3 in the ballroom of the Esperanza Mansion overlooking the lake.

The project is moving forward on the strength of a $2.3 million award from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Regional Council initiative for being identified as a priority project by the Council.

The funding will be used to renovate the former Branchport Elementary School to create the Discovery Campus, which is the first of a two-phase project sponsored by The Finger Lakes Museum. Together, the first and second phases of this project will create and retain 100 direct jobs through the Museum, 330 construction jobs, and generate an estimated $12to $15 million annually in the region through increased tourism, which will spur economic activity and benefit the surrounding communities.

The exterior and interior improvements planned for the Discovery Campus can be seen online in the virtual tour and the design plans are available on The Finger Lakes Museum’s website:

The Museum’s Discovery Campus will be a place where regional academic institutions can collaborate in the study of issues like fresh water quality, sustainability, and environmentalstewardship. It's the first phase in development of the planned multimillion-dollar indoor/outdoor natural and cultural complex highlighting the Finger Lakes region. The Finger

Lakes Museum is a natural and cultural resource dedicated to the enjoyment, education and stewardship of the Finger Lakes Region and to fresh water conservation around the world.

“The Finger Lakes region has a storied history and by tapping into the past the Finger Lakes Museum is ensuring a brighter future for the surrounding communities,” said Kenneth Adams, President, CEO & Commissioner of Empire State Development. “This project creates much needed jobs and will boost the region’s tourism industry, which will generate significant economic activity and help foster growth for local businesses.”

“The new jobs and economic stimulus that will result from the construction of The Finger Lakes Museum are precisely what Governor Cuomo envisioned when he created the Regional Economic Development initiative last year,” said Matthew Driscoll, President and CEO of the New York State Environmental Facilities Corp. (EFC).

The Museum was awarded resources from three state agencies, including $1.5 million from Empire State Development, $400,000 from New York State Office of Parks Recreation & Historic Preservation and $381,000 from the Environmental Facilities Corporation. To help make this transformational project a reality, several state agencies are providing resources, including Empire State Development, which is providing a Regional Council Capital Fund grant of up to $1.5 million to go towards offsetting the costs of acquiring and renovating the Branchport School site and the construction of the Discovery Campus.

EFC’s Green Innovation Grant Program will create an innovative and interpretive stormwater management system, including a porous pavement parking lot which will absorb rainwater and reduce the runoff of polluted water into Sugar Creek. A rain-absorbing “green roof” and ecofriendly bio-filters will further treat storm water runoff, and stream banks along the creek will be restored and protected. The New York State Office of Parks Recreation & Historic Preservation’s resources will be used to increase public access to the waterways at the Discovery Campus. Part of the plan includes establishing a canoe/kayak landing on Sugar Creek and a livery in a reconstructed 19th century post and beam barn.

“It’s not just an idea anymore. The Governor’s award will enable us to complete the first of several phases in the development and construction of The Finger Lakes Museum, and we are grateful,” said John Adamski, President of The Finger Lakes Museum Board of Trustees.

The updated plans from design teams Bohlin Cwyinski Jackson and Trowbridge Wolf Michaels Landscape Architects were presented at the reception by Donald Naetzker, Executive Director of The Finger Lakes Museum, who said the virtual tour is one of several new features planned for the museum’s website. “The tour speaks to the role of the Discovery Center as a launching pad for discovering Finger Lakes assets - Sugar Creek, associated wetlands, and the open waters and public shorelines of a pristine Finger Lake.”  The virtual tour can be seen at;

Taylor Fitch, Chairman of the Yates County Legislature commented, “To see the updated design through this virtual tour is an exciting development for The Finger Lakes Museum, which everyone expects will be a major tourism and educational attraction for Yates County and the entire Finger Lakes community.”

Steve Griffin, CEO of the Finger Lakes Economic Development Corp. said, “The Regional Council’s support of The Finger Lakes Museum and the financing provided by Governor Cuomo’s economic development initiative are important steps in our efforts to capitalize on the natural resources that bring thousands of tourists to the Finger Lakes each year.”

The Town of Jerusalem Supervisor Daryl Jones called the plans "Excellent! I can't support it more. It's going to be very positive for Jerusalem and Branchport, bringing pride to the community along with more tourism and business."

From Senator Tom O’Mara: "The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council has put forth an ambitious and comprehensive strategy for securing the region's short- and long-term economic success. It brings together local strengths in new and exciting ways, and we're fortunate to have the Council's ongoing leadership. The proposed Discovery Campus promises to be one of the Council's flagship achievements, and it's great to see it moving forward.”

From Assemblyman Phil Palmesano: "When regional cooperation occurs, exciting and ambitious ideas like The Finger Lakes Museum's Discovery Campus come to fruition. This exciting project, when finished, will be a tremendous asset for the entire Finger Lakes region. I commend Governor Cuomo for recognizing it as a true regional priority."

To learn more about each regional council and their economic development plans, visit

An aerial sketch of the discovery campus, including a canoe/kayak livery on Sugar Creek.