Weekly Feature

2018-01-10 / Lifestyles

Council to integrate more enrichment programs in parks

by HOLLY N. LIPKA Reporter

Amherst Conservation Advisory Council members act as “watchdogs of the passive parks,” according to recently appointed chairwoman Elizabeth Graczyk Dagostino.

That’s why this year the council will continue its duty of protecting the passive parks in Amherst while also making an effort to show residents and their children what beautiful natural habitats exist in their backyards.

The Amherst Conservation Advisory Council, made up of eight volunteer members, oversees more than 30 passive parks in Amherst including Amherst State Park, Nature View Park, Dann Lake Park, Walton Woods Park, Saratoga Park and Bassett Park.

“It’s not just about the playgrounds and the pools. Those are great things to have, but we have stunning passive parks, and oftentimes, I think that’s lost in all of the development that goes on in Amherst,” said Graczyk Dagostino.

The council primarily focuses on giving advice to the Amherst Town Board on Type I actions, which are development or rezoning applications that come to the Amherst Planning Board. Council members also review site plans and talk with developers about mitigating potential environmental issues.

Graczyk Dagostino said the council will continue reviewing these applications in the new year, but as chairwoman, she is mainly concerned about conserving and further using open and green spaces for educational purposes, especially for the benefit of children.

Following this path, the council plans to establish more enrichment and educational programs in parks like Nature View, a 1,200-acre expanse of forests, fields, creeks and trails.

“Nature View Park is a huge section of land, and people don’t even know it exists,” said Graczyk Dagostino. “We’re really going to be working on that park with some trails and markers, and bringing the Boy Scouts in to do different programming.”

Graczyk Dagostino said she’d like to see the Boy Scouts lead some group hikes and share their knowledge of the parks with participants.

“I’d like to see them be the leaders. When you give kids that power and that knowledge when they’re young, they will carry that on in their lives.”

Some successful programs the council organized in the past included Walks and Talks. Each Walk and Talk was led by a community volunteer with specific knowledge of a topic concerning nature. Participants would walk around with the volunteer and have a chance to learn something new about invasive species or specific plants and flowers.

This year, Graczyk Dagostino also hopes to work with the Village of Williamsville’s Glen Park Joint Board on programs to run in both Glen Park and Amherst State Park, since the parks border each other.

“Glen Park is this really great, developed park and Amherst State Park is this wild, undeveloped park. They’re both very different,” said Graczyk Dagostino. “We’d like to keep Amherst State Park undeveloped, but I think there’s still room to bring people in and show them the beauty in there.”

Developing more enrichment programs in the parks will be more work for the council, but Graczyk Dagostino believes the change in direction will be welcomed and successful.

“We’re very excited. My kids love being outdoors and they soak up knowledge about the environment, so I feel like it’s important to get kids out there to learn about natural habitats, the bugs and the critters.”

For more information about the council or if interested in becoming a member, visit www.amherst.ny.us.

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