By Alison Rooney
Jackie Grant, who lives in Garrison, retired on Nov. 30 after 13 years as executive director of the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum in Cornwall.
During your tenure, the museum changed its name from the Museum of Hudson Highlands. Why was that?
The museum was about connecting people with nature, but it was more amorphous. Our focus became “to develop responsible caretakers of the natural world.” We delved into the research and discovered that one thing which adult conservators had in common was a lot of unstructured play in nature as children.
How did the digital era change your job?
People will suggest, “You should have a virtual walk in the woods.” That’s quickly met with a “no.” We want to get the kids into the woods. We have two sites. One is filled with outdoor areas to explore. The other has animals. There are all sorts of wonderful documentaries, but nothing replaces seeing an actual creature.
What can you tell us about the animals?
They are at the Wildlife Education Center because they can’t be let out into the wild. Our animal-care people really connect with them. For instance, they trained Edgar Allan Crow to take a dollar in his beak and put it into a cup. He loves it, because it gives him an activity.
What is Grasshopper Grove?
It’s a half-acre play area in the woods. We took all the fun places on our property and brought them to one spot. Instead of slides and swings, we have hills. It helps adults see how much kids love play that’s not based on a lot of equipment.
Was it difficult to promote the museum to Philipstown residents?
We had 35,000 visitors overall last year, but the river is a great barrier. Still, the drive from Garrison is only 25 minutes.