Sunday, October 13, 2019

Wild, wild Buckhorn Island State Park

Buckhorn Island State Park at the northernmost tip of Grand Island is a place that is always in the state of becoming. It was once part of a forest that bordered the Niagara River, a forest that included such wetlands as swamps and marshes. It is now considered to be an Important Bird Area, and it is a breeding ground for various migratory species.
At one point, there was a hotel where there is now a park. I've seen photographs of the hotel.
But, unlike the Bedell House at the southern end of the island, there isn't much documentation of the Buckhorn Hotel, other than that photograph. I don't have a copy of it so I can't share it here, but it looks as if it was taken late in the nineteenth century. You can tell by the clothing and hats that people wore.


In the 1930s, there was a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in Buckhorn Island State Park. It was located just south of the Grand Island bridge connecting Grand Island to Niagara Falls on the southern bank of Burnt Ship Creek.
This was one of nine CCC camps in Western New York. The Civilian Conservation Corps Camps were military style facilities that were designed to give young men employment during the height of the Great Depression.

The camp in Buckhorn consisted of a cook shack, dining hall, supply building, doctor's office, and infirmary. Also on site were company headquarters, garage, recreation hall and canteen, latrine, and a boiler room, with wash rooms and shower stalls.
Many of the men who lived and worked at this camp were veterans from the eastern part of New York State. The camp's chaplain was Father William Martin of Saint Stephen Church until he was transferred in 1943.

Work that the men did included building the Charlotte Sidway School, which is now an elementary school that houses universal pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and first grade. They also weeded the nursery at Buckhorn.
They developed picnic grounds at Buckhorn, and they constructed bridle paths. They also were offered vocational classes, as well as first aid. During their free time, they participated in sports and they held dances, which were open to residents of Grand Island.

All of that is gone now. The buildings were removed. Apparently, from I've heard, some of the buildings from the Civilian Conservation Corps have been located elsewhere on Grand Island. It is possible that work will be done to restore those buildings, as they are integral parts of local history.

The state bought the land that is now Buckhorn Island State Park in 1952. The buildings and other construction was removed.
Much of the wetlands were restored, making Buckhorn Island State Park a gem along the Niagara River, since much of the native habitat is lost to us forever. 

Currently, Buckhorn Island State Park is undergoing a major renovation program. The goal is to remove invasive plants and replace them with species native to Western New York. That is currently a work in progress. Another issue that Buckhorn faces is the deaths of its many ash trees.
It is estimated that approximately forty percent of Grand Island's trees are ash trees. 
Buckhorn Island State Park, along with the island is full of dead and dying ash tree.
The neighborhoods and the parks need a massive reforestation project, designed to replace the dead trees.


In this blog post, you will see images from Buckhorn Island State Park at various times of the years.






Thursday, October 10, 2019

Find old fashioned charm at Kelly's Country Store

Today's stop on the Western New York tour is Kelly's Country store. Located on Grand Island Boulevard, near Long Road, in the Town of Grand Island, the store is housed in a building that looks like an old barn. 

Not only does that building look like an old barn, it actually actually is an old barn. Back in 1962, the barn was set to be torn down elsewhere on the island. The original owners of Kelly's Country Store, Walt and Mike Kelly, actually took the building apart and rebuilt it at its current location.
Before they set roots down on Grand Island, they were traveling around and selling their goods at various fairs and festivals. Once they moved into the old barn, they had found a home. The home that they created is huge. When you walk inside, you see bins full of candies and chocolates, which are made on site.  And it looks like a regular-sized store. Then you walk back and back, through room after room. It's almost as if the building is bigger on the inside than the outside, sort of like Doctor Who's TARDIS.

The building can't travel anywhere in time, unlike the TARDIS, but it does take you back to a time when you could walk into a store and buy penny candy.
People love to talk about the penny candy era. It's probably because, now, good chocolate is a real splurge.
But sometimes, you've got to do it. Splurge on chocolate, that is. You know, mental health food and all that.


So anyway, Kelly's Country Store is a fun place to visit at any time of the year. In the spring, you can stop in there and get chocolates for Easter.
In December, you can enjoy the Christmas decorations. They are very colorful and they look like the past come to life.
Make sure to bring the kids because, in the darkest room of the building (wait, that's not dark; it is atmosphere!), Santa sits on his throne, ready to listen to the requests of children for anything that their hearts desire. 


But Christmas time isn't when Santa first comes to Kelly's Country Store. After all, the north pole can be awfully cold and Santa isn't so young anymore.
His hands get really icy and his toes shiver. So he comes to visit in October when no one expects to see Santa.
He has been coming regularly to the fall festival that Kelly's Country Store has run for the past four years.
He likes to see the kids and the pumpkins and the old one-room schoolhouse that has become a museum of sorts. But what he especially likes is finding delicious food at one of the food trucks that offers meals.


Come to Kelly's Country Store for the chocolate and for Santa and stay for the fun.




Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Visiting Buffalo's Japanese Gardens

One of the most peaceful and relaxing places in Buffalo can be found just behind the Buffalo History Museum, which is located at One Museum Court, in the northwest corner of Delaware Park.


Delaware Park is part of a parks system that was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and his partner Calvert Vaux in 1870. The park, which features a lake and pastoral parklands, was completed in 1876. The parks system that Olmsted and Vaux designed was considered to the first municipal park system planned in detail by landscape architects in the United States.


The establishment of sister city relationships between Buffalo and Kanazawa, Japan, led the way to the creation of the peaceful and meditative Japanese gardens, located behind the Buffalo History Museum.
In 1974, the collaboration of the people of Buffalo and Kanazawa resulted in the design and the construction of the Japanese gardens. Renovations and updates were done in 1996.
Today, the gardens are maintained by the Buffalo Olmsted Conservancy.  The gardens, with their statues, cherry trees, and other plantings, have become an oasis of peacefulness in the city.
Events that are held there include the annual cherry blossom festival in April or May and Indigenous People's Day in August.
The Japanese Gardens are also considered to be a desirable place to hold weddings. It is also a good site for plein aire painting.