While most birthday parties feature pizza, presents and cake, the Sherwood Island Nature Center's first birthday party on Saturday was a bit less conventional. Fittingly, the celebration hosted by the Friends of Sherwood Island State Park included a Birds of Prey program, a meet-and-greet with critters, exhibit tours with staff naturalists and summer interns, as well as nature hikes through the Salt Marsh Nature Trail. Of course, ice cream was part of the birthday celebration, too.

Despite the fact that Saturday's event was a birthday celebration, it is the center that is the gift to the community. Last year the Friends of the Sherwood Island State Park, a coalition of concerned outdoorsmen, sportsmen, environmentalists and citizens who banded together in 1995, unvieled the center to serve as a place where the public could come to learn about the ecosystem of the 234-acre state park in Westport.

The new center behind the East Beach is the result of a public-private partnership between the state Department of Environmental Protection and the friends. It replaced an existing center on West Beach, which was deemed structurally unsound in 2002.

For more information about the center and the Friends of Sherwood Island State Park, visit www.friendsofsherwoodisland.org