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History of Amherst State Park News Archives

Weekend cleanup unearths trash

Amherst Bee,   April 22, 2009  by Jessica L. Finch

Re-Tree Western New York volunteers Dick Casseri of East Amherst,

Laurie Syms of Cheektowaga and Connie Holoman of Eggertsville learn

the correct way to plant a tree at Park School on Saturday. Art Traver, center,

from Re-Tree, teaches the proper techniques. Photo by Jim Smerecak

       It was a record-breaking year, with 1,600 gathering across Western New York for the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper Spring Shoreline Sweep.

    In Amherst, 115 people registered to clean the areas around Island Park, Glen Falls and Amherst State Park.

    "We had never seen such a response from the community," citizen action coordinator Kerry Bentkowski said, adding that there were 40 sites across the region. "They did a lot of good work for the streams."

    Lois Shriver, chairman of the Amherst Conservation Advisory Council, worked at Amherst State Park and was amazed by the trash unearthed.

    A riding lawn mower, kitchen sink and mattress were among the large pieces of trash pulled from Ellicott Creek during Saturday's cleanup.

Cub Scout Pack 455 members, Connor Merrifield, Joseph Pellicci,

Matthew Goodman and Michael Goodman participated in the

Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper's cleanup event on April 18.

Cadet Girl Scout Troop 1189 also participated.

    Trash, was pulled from Ellicott Creek in Amherst State Park this past Saturday by volunteers with the Riverkeepers. Items found included a riding lawn mower, tires, paint cans and rusted pipes. "We took out a tremendous amount of trash — 20 to 25 bags," she said.

    That included smaller items, such as cans, bottles and plastic bags. Large piles of trash, littered with tires, rusted pipes and bicycles, were organized for pickup by the Town of Amherst Highway Department.

    Bentkowski said the site is cleaned up twice a year — in the spring and fall — and the trash collects either by being dumped there or floating downstream.

    "This is a good time of year to do it," she said. "Between the snow melting and before the vegetation grows in, it's easier to get to the trash."

    "If the fundraising is successful, this wonderful old gazebo will again shelter a quiet spot for a country picnic," Larry Beahan, foundation member, said.

    The cleanup was part of a national effort, the Great American Cleanup, that attracted thousands of volunteers.

    Shriver expressed frustration with the amount of trash but praised the volunteers for removing it.

    "You wouldn't believe all the stuff they took out," she said. "People use it as a dump site."

    Patty Morris was the site captain and said she believes the materials unearthed may draw attention to the area.

    "There was rusted metal, broken glass and paint cans," she said, adding that some materials were jagged and posed a hazard.

    Having participated in her first Riverkeeper cleanup in the fall, Morris said that this time they were able to get more trash out because the vegetation hadn't grown in.

    "What happened to the park? This has to be addressed," she said about surveying the area.

    Morris said she returned to the park on Sunday and was disappointed to see people already trashing it. She is asking everyone who uses the park to clean up after themselves and their dogs.

    "I hoped there would be self-policing," she said, adding that the problem with dog waste has gotten so bad she will chase people down with a bag when she sees them leave behind feces.

    An estimated 50 people dedicated their time to Amherst State Park, and a group of 60 Boy and Girl Scouts were in Glen and Island parks.

    The next cleanup is planned for Sept. 19.

    Across town another group of 40 environmentally conscious volunteers were at Park School being trained on bare-root tree planting in an effort to help Re-Tree Western New York.

    Re-Tree Chairman Paul Maurer said the volunteers were being trained in anticipation of the mass planting that will take place throughout Western New York this spring.

    "We will plant our 10,000th tree this year on May 7," he said.

    That day was chosen in honor of the late Tim Russert because it would have been his 59th birthday. Russert, a WNY native, was the longest-serving moderator of NBC's "Meet the Press." He passed away in June 2008.

    The tree will be planted along the waterfront.

    Re-Tree WNY was founded in spring 2007 in response to the devastating October 2006 ice and snow storm that damaged thousands of trees.

    In Amherst alone, 5,500 town trees were destroyed, Highway Superintendent Bob Anderson said. Amherst plans to plant 2,639 trees this spring, he added.

    Maurer said Amherst was one of the hardest hit areas, and Re-Tree has donated thousands of trees to 17 additional municipalities.

    "We set out to plant 30,000 trees because of the storm," he said, adding that the estimated number damaged was 57,000.

    Re-Tree has pledged to meet municipalities halfway. The group is completely volunteer and depends on donations.

    Schichtel's Nursery is providing this year's group of trees, and they will be distributed May 2 and 3, probably from the town's Highway Department on North Forest Road, Maurer said.

    For information on Re-Tree WNY, visit

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