For many, there is no better retreat than an afternoon or a weekend spent at Allegany State Park (ASP). From hiking to camping and everything in between, the park has so much to offer visitors and western New York residents alike. National Public Lands Day on Saturday, September 28 is the perfect time to celebrate – and give back – to Allegany State Park and help preserve it for future generations.
Hosted by ASP’s Environmental Education Department, this year marks the 15th year of ASP’s participation in the nation’s largest one-day event designed to give people the opportunity to volunteer in a variety of service projects that enhance both the park and the visitor experience.
Environmental educator Adele Wellman is looking forward to this year’s event, which takes place on the Quaker Lake side of the park. Planned activities include cleaning up, weeding and maintaining the pollination/hummingbird gardens at the Quaker Museum. Volunteers will also be working together to remove invasive species around Science Lake and the School in the Forest foundations, pick up litter around Quaker Lake and creeks, clean out fire pits and grills, install new blue bird boxes and help with trail work.
Wellman explained that ASP alternates the projects each year from the Red House side of the park to the Quaker side. “With the help of many volunteers and staff, we have been able to tackle large projects such as refurbishing Sweetwater Spring Monument and hand brushing miles of hiking, biking and snowmobile trails,” she said. “In 2007, the big project was building an ADA sensory trail and planting the area with hundreds of perennials attractive to both humans and butterflies.”
Indeed, many aspects of the park that visitors may take for granted are the result of volunteers’ hard work each year. “Facility buildings, wooden guard rails, cabins and trail signs have been painted over the years,” Wellman noted. “We go through a lot of green and brown paint!”
She explained that “litter patrol” is assigned to high traffic areas like the lakes, creeks and cabin trails. Volunteers have also assembled picnic tables and removed invasive species like multi flora rose and Japanese honeysuckle. “Over 200 native trees have been planted to prevent erosion,” she added.
Wellman noted that the day – while a productive one—is also a fun social event that many look forward to each year. “It’s a great way to meet new people and see returning volunteers who have become friends over the years,” she said. “Many of the volunteers tell me stories of when they first came to Allegany or about the plants or animals they have seen. They enjoy this park as much as I do. I believe we all enjoy being able to take a few hours to give back to a place that gives us joy.”
Wellman hopes to have 50 to 100 volunteers this year. “Many people come from Erie County and make a whole weekend out of it,” she said. “We get local schools and college groups, too.”
Importantly, volunteers of all ages are welcome, but anyone under the age of 18 must have their legal guardian sign a volunteer agreement form. Every child gets a gift for participating. Pre-registration is open now until Monday, Sept. 23 by calling the Environmental Education/Recreation Department at 716-354-9101 ext. 236. Walk-ins the day of the event are also welcome. Day-of registration begins at 9am at the Quaker Picnic Shelter, and projects run from 10am-3pm with a free dinner for volunteers at 4pm.
Volunteers should wear work clothes and sturdy shoes and bring gloves (if they have them), a lunch, water and a snack. The event takes place rain or shine. For more information, search Allegany State Park on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.