A feasibility study to transform Washington Lodge


The 18-foot peace canoe looked pretty glorious in  CEED’s Marine Room. Overseen by educational coordinator Karrthik Pitchayan, it was the result of a collaboration with young students, the Wavemakers, at the Carmans River Maritime Center. Yellow, blue, green and red images popped out all over the place, reflecting the enthusiasm, imagination, and delight of its creators.

“It has a lot of happiness,” said Pitchayan. “We’ll use it during summer camp.”

Plans are afoot to hopefully convert the 7,300-square-foot, late-1800s Washington Lodge mansion into an environmental beacon, so more projects like this one can take place.

“We’re in the middle of a feasibility and planning study, and set up a meeting with a prospective architect, Studio A/B Architects,” said CEED executive director Sally Wellinger. “With this vision, we’re embracing the historical aspects while incorporating our environmental surroundings. We want people to feel immersed as they walk through.

“Everything we’ve done so far is cosmetic; we’re hoping to upgrade the system.”

As the Center for Environmental Education and Discovery’s completed renovation projects increase, so has its staff, with Pitchayan, volunteer coordinator Audrey Collins, and executive administrative assistant Jessica DiCanio on board, as well as two animal-care staffers for the animal ambassadors.

Woodlands Hall, the front entry room, and the Marine Room are now bright with painted walls, buffed floors, new windows and light flooding in, with the surrounding 60-acre woodlands as the panoramic backdrop—great settings for classes and programs, a start of hopefully more improvements to come. Upstairs, several rooms had been painted and refurbished for offices.

CEED has received significant grants over the years attesting to its worth and value, including from Suffolk County, the Town of Brookhaven—a big supporter—and the Post-Morrow Foundation, as well as Robert D.L. Gardiner Foundation and Preservation League of New York State.  A recent State and Municipal Facilities (SAM) grant, pushed by assemblyman Joe DeStefano (R-Medford) for $75,000, helped to finish up window replacements, mostly on the second floor. Anonymous donors have stepped in, some with stories. One $10,000 gift supports a historic structure report; the private donor had a grandson who was on an environmental trip with Eric Powers at Caleb Smith Park years ago before his CEED association.

The staff exudes dedication. Powers, the lead environmental educator, lives on the premises, cares for the animals, and conducts hikes and other programs regularly during the week and on weekends. Pitchayan, who drives in from Old Westbury, is also a camp leader, and is launching the peace canoe on April 20 at Post-Morrow from 9 to 11 a.m. for a Creek Defender cleanup project. Collins has signed up a record number of volunteers through her savvy social media work that reels them in and spreads the word. Through DiCanio, who just celebrated her one-year anniversary, Wellinger said, “we’ve doubled our education program and increased opportunities for per diem educators.”

A vision meeting took place on Monday; parents, community members, and people who played a role in CEED’s metamorphosis were invited for their input.

“We had 15 attend, including me and Studio A/B Architects had four—a very diverse crowd,” said Wellinger Tuesday morning. “Joel Snodgrass is doing the building conditions report and he called the lodge a collection of sections. We can’t add square footage, so it’s reworking [with] what we have.”

A big first step, she said, is repairing the roof and chimneys and hopefully incorporate a teaching kitchen. “We did pull in a chef; we’re making sure our vision group is well rounded,” Wellinger said. “We discussed  retreats and water use, a composting toilet possibly outside for hikers, and a wastewater system.”

CEED has already hosted meetings for the South Bay Art Association, HOG Farm and Brookhaven Village Association. “One of the first goals is being a community resource. We want to be a place where organizations could get together and work together.”

“We also need $100,000 for the feasibility study to complete the full restoration/renovation plan and want to preserve as much history as possible,” said Wellinger. 


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