Nature’s calling: explore the outdoors of Western New York

It seems as if the weather has finally changed for the better here in Western New York. Spring fever is taking over, and everyone is ready to go outside and enjoy the great outdoors.

Though we live in a city, we have some of the most amazing nature sites right in our own backyard; Niagara Falls, Beaver Island and Allegany State Park, as well as many others that are just minutes away.

Just down the road, you will find one of the Seven Wonders of the World: Niagara Falls. What many people don’t know is that Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest State Park in the country. The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (whose work can be seen in many parks and sites in the Buffalo region), connecting the Falls with the City of Good Neighbors. Sometimes it is difficult to look past the tourist attraction aspect of the falls to see the beauty of the landmark, but local residents are lucky to have such easy access to it.

Interested in taking a hike? Take a ride down the road less than two hours west of Buffalo to Allegany State Park. With 80 miles of hiking trails, two lakes and three campgrounds, one has many options to enjoy nature.

Students in the anthropology department at Buffalo State have the opportunity to do their fieldwork studying locally at Beaver Island. They learn the proper way to recover artifacts in a way that will not only preserve them, but also not damage the environment in which they came from. This is extremely important for the conservation and preservation of ecosystems.

As a former Boy Scout who spent his summers working as an ecology and conservation assistant at Camp Massassawepie in the Adirondacks, SUNY Oswego student Joe Campbell has witnessed firsthand how important it is to educate young people about their surroundings as an effort to preserve the natural habitat around us.

“Parks act as a good haven against pollution and deforestation,” Campbell said. “But they also serve an important purpose in getting people to enjoy nature which is the most important part of conservation, because it will only be as effective as the public wants it to be.”

Campbell believes that in order to appreciate the world around us, we have to know about it. State Parks and nature centers are important for local ecosystems. Animals are facing habitat degradation, which threatens their lives every day.

As an avid camper and state park visitor, I believe getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city and connecting with nature is not only important for conservation awareness, but also for the soul. It is a freeing feeling to be able to fall asleep in a tent to the sounds of the wilderness around us rather than cars driving by and sirens going off.

Mathew Augustynek, a student at Buffalo State, is very familiar with state parks in the Western New York Region. The parks have a rule that visitors may leave no trace, which helps to preserve the parks for others to enjoy.

“My boy scout troop camped at several state parks, mostly large ones with plenty of nature-related activities,” Augustynek said. “The park rangers liked having us around because we knew and followed the ‘Leave No Trace’ rule. That basically means that we left the park in better condition than the way we found it.

“It is important to preserve the parks for others to enjoy.”

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