Winter Camping and Outdoor Recreation at ‘Base Camp Oswego County’ Feb. 25

WILLIAMSTOWN –Outdoor enthusiasts can learn winter survival skills and the basics of winter camping while exploring the grounds of Camp Zerbe at the second annual Base Camp Oswego County, a winter outdoor expo, Saturday, Feb. 25.

The event is sponsored by Pinnacle Builders USA Inc., Oswego Expeditions, the Oswego County Search and Rescue Team, Oswego County Division of Parks and Recreation, Oswego County Tourism Office, and several volunteers who are experienced in outdoor recreation.

Workshops will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. inside the lodge and on the grounds of the Oswego County Nature Park at Camp Zerbe, 253 State Route 104 East in the town of Williamstown.

Outdoor winter camping on the grounds of Camp Zerbe near Williamstown.

OUTDOOR WINTER CAMPING ADVENTURE – The second annual Base Camp Oswego County will take place Saturday, Feb. 25, on the grounds of Camp Zerbe near Williamstown. A variety of field trips and workshops will be held during the day, with optional overnight camping. For event information visit www.facebook.com/BaseCampOswego or call Oswego Expeditions at 315-561-0223. (Photo by Mary Ellen Barbeau.)

“The purpose of Base Camp Oswego County is to introduce people to the basics of winter camping and Oswego County’s great resources for outdoor recreation,” said event chairman and County Legislator Jake Mulcahey of Oswego.   “We have a full day of field trips and workshops scheduled. Overnight camping will be available Saturday night, Feb. 25, for those who bring their own winter camping gear and register in advance. This year we’ll have designated areas for family camping and adult only sites.”

Workshop topics include cross-country ski and snowshoe hikes, snow shelter building, winter survival skills, GPS and orienteering, working with sled dogs and skijoring, camp cooking techniques , fat bikes, and ice fishing. Admission to the workshops is free. There is a $10 registration fee per tent for overnight camping.

Food vendors will be on site during the day. Participants should dress for the weather and bring their own sleds, skis and snowshoes if they have them. A limited number of snowshoes will be available for loan.

Overnight camping will be available for those who pre-register and bring their own winter camping gear. To register, call Oswego Expeditions at 315-561-0223 or visit http://bit.ly/2kb8TJr

Two clinics will be held prior to the event for first-time winter campers. Jake Mulcahey and Barb Hartman will conduct “Introduction to Winter Camping” clinics at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7 at the Mexico Public Library, 3269 Main St., Mexico; and Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. at Murdock’s Bicycles and Sports, 177 W. First St., Oswego. Those planning to camp overnight should bring all of their own gear and food for Saturday night dinner and Sunday morning breakfast. Overnight campers will be asked to register and sign an insurance waiver.

The Oswego County Nature Park at Camp Zerbe is owned by Oswego County and overseen by the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau, Division of Parks and Recreation. Any proceeds from the event will be donated to the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau for youth recreation programming.

For information, visit www.facebook.com/BaseCampOswego or call Oswego Expeditions at 315-561-0223.

2017 NYS Winter Classic Fishing Tournament Continues through February

NYS Winter Fishing Tournament Continues through February

OSWEGO COUNTY – The 2017 NYS Winter Classic Fishing Tournament is considered the largest winter fishing tournament ever conducted in NY state, the NYS Winter Classic Fishing Tournament continues through the end of February. The event features seven categories of fish to target, a catch-and-release event for trout and pike, 58 weigh-in locations, and a prize structure that tops $80,000 in sponsored cash and prizes from over 50 sponsors making this event one of the most sponsored tournaments in the country.

Anglers fishing in the tournament can visit three local businesses — All Seasons Sports and Salmon River Sports Shop in Pulaski, and App’s Bait and Tackle in Cleveland — to weigh in their catches.

Angler catches a steelhead fish at a tournament

Anglers fishing Oswego County waters can enter their catches for the New York State Winter Classic at three Oswego County tackle shops: All Season Sports and Salmon River Sports in Pulaski, and App’s Bait and Tackle in Cleveland. Pictured holding a steelhead he released back into the Oswego River is Tommy Quinzi. Photo courtesy of Capt. Kevin Davis, Catch the Drift Guide Service

“This will be the third year for this statewide event and it continues to grow with more anglers getting involved and larger prizes to the winners,” said tournament organizer Tim Thomas. “The event allows anglers to fish any waterway in NY state, any time between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28, using any legal angling method, to target seven categories of fish. ”

Live leaderboards on the website keep anglers updated in near real-time throughout the event for both the main event and weekly awards. This year’s event features two large prizes: a $2,500 cash grand prize sponsored by Clam Outdoors (to be given to one of the first place finishing anglers by random draw) and a Case canoe with graphics wrap and fishing accessories for the overall largest fish entered.

Additional prizes include weekly, monthly, and overall prize packages, product specific awards, female angler awards, species specific awards including a $1,500 stainless steel artistic steelhead mount by world-renown artist Steve Nielsen, door prizes, and angler achievement awards for catching fish of substantial size.

Registered anglers will also have a chance at 58 shanties being given away in raffles – every weigh-in location has one to give away. Anglers can gain entries either by registering for the event or bringing fish in to the stations during the event (one entry per angler per day per location per fish). Registration is $25/angler ($35/angler with the optional lunker pool) and anglers can register at most weigh-in locations or online at www.nyswinterclassic.com.

“The New York State Ice Pro-Am Corporation in association with Finders Keepers Sportfishing continues to strive to offer exposure for the New York State fishery through their tournament events and sponsor connections to promote the industry and encourage tourism,” said Thomas. ” These tournament events have been very successful at offering new product companies and tackle shops exposure to turn profits.”

For more tournament information, contact Thomas at (585) 330-0494 or email info@FKsportfishing.com or visit www.NYSwinterclassic.com.

For Oswego County fishing conditions and visitor information go to www.visitoswegocounty.com or call 1-800-248-4FUN.

Explore Winter Wonderland at Cattaraugus County in The Enchanted Mountains

Explore the Winter Wonderlands at Cattaraugus County in the Enchanted Mountains

Contributed by: Cattaraugus County

Western New York Winter is upon us in The Enchanted Mountains! Here in Cattaraugus County, one day we could be shoveling out two feet of snow and the next dodging raindrops! Never fret, whether you choose to explore the Winter Wonderlands of our Natural areas or prefer to celebrate the season by visiting our splendid indoor museums, galleries and theatre performances, you are sure to celebrate all of Winter, not just the holidays. Come and enjoy these fun winter activities with the whole family, you’ll be glad you did!

Snowmobile season is in full effect! [Image: enchantedmountains.com]

Trails and Lodging 

When the snow comes down all fluffy and fast, you can be sure that is the best time to ride a snowmobile. Cascade over the freshly fallen snow laying peacefully on the fields or slow down in our forested areas to look up and glance at the snow-lined trees. We have over 450 miles of trails, including those in Allegany State Park. With all those miles and trails that connect into the next County, you will need at least a couple days to pack in all the fun! We have numerous lodgings with easy trail access including cabins in Allegany State Park, Harwood Haven, Mystic Water Resort and The Woods at Bear Creek! Plus plenty of B&B’s, house rentals and more! Call 1-800-331-0543 for your Free Trail Map and brochure which lists these places and more, plus restaurants, snowmobile rentals , snowmobile service stops and gas stations along the trail!

Here is just one example of the day of fun that awaits you this winter!

Stay at The Inn at One Bank Street in Randolph, which has restaurants and gas within a half of a block from your guest room. Walk over to Vern’s Place in the morning for an affordable, delicious meal to give you the energy to be out in the cold all day. Head back to the room, gear up and take your sled over to Arrowmart to gas up before you go, again just a half block away! Now you’re ready for an adventure – but don’t forget your trail map! It is very important to respect the landowners that allow the trails to go over their property. And remember, just because you see a trail doesn’t mean it is for your use! It is your responsibility to know the trails and stick to them!

How about heading up to Little Valley, then over through the back hills of Ellicottville through the McCarty Hill Forest then over to the quaint town of Franklinville. Check out the Woods at Bear Creek for dinner and to warm up. The Woods at Bear Creek offers a view of the pristine snow over their lake that can be seen from the restaurant! Once you’re warmed up, head south through Ischua and down through Portville. If you didn’t grab a bite to eat at The Woods at Bear Creek, then give Sprague’s Maple Farms a try! Almost everything on the menu has maple syrup in it! There are gas opportunities here too at Kwik Fill and the Halfway Inn Bar & Grill. Make your back to Randolph through Allegany State Park to start scoping out a location for next year’s snowmobile vacation.

Love winter but prefer the indoors?

Why not ease into it with ice-skating at the William O Smith Rec. Center in Olean. This is the perfect compromise. You get to enjoy a great winter sport, but can step off the ice to warm up at any time. Plus, what makes a better date night than ice-skating? (Hint, hint) Afterwards, take that special someone out to a lovely dinner at any of the new restaurants in Olean. Try Woodside Tavern on the Range on River Road for a beautiful setting, or the hip new Ravyn & Robyn Lounge, featuring fine Italian Cuisine made from scratch! There’s always the tried and true favorites as well – The Beef N Barrel, Brothers Bistro, El Mariachi and Angee’s! Recount the funny happenings of ice-skating while you dine together and enjoy the slower pace of winter.

Historial Museum exhibit fat Cattaraugus County New York

Cattaraugus County Historical Museum  [Image: Cattaraugus County]

Can’t stand the thought of cold weather?

Well, we recommend you make your way into one of our outstanding museums, galleries or theatrical performances to keep you warm. We have 26 museums in the County that can be viewed in our Heritage Brochure (free if requested as well). These have a variety of interests including Town and Village histories, History of the County, Seneca Nation Culture, themes relating to African American History and the Underground Railroad and one even has a Mammoth! The Regina A Quick Center is located on the campus of St. Bonaventure University and has stunning and important works of art from their collection and others. There are also live performances here from renowned musicians thanks to the group “Friends of Good Music”.

The theatre is alive and well and as you know the saying goes, “The Show Must Go On”. And that means in the winter as well. Spend a delightful evening inside dreaming of other lives lived and hearing the great stories and musicals put on by our fantastic local talent. Olean Community Theatre will be starting their 38th season in 2017 and will feature “The Big Meal” “Assassins” and “9 to 5”. The Olean Theatre Workshop has provided family theater for over 34 years and upcoming performances of The Odd Couple will debut in Feb. The Ray Evans Seneca Theatre is the host to the Cattaraugus County Living Arts Association’s performances. “Hair” will be gracing the stage here in February and is sure to be the talk of the town for the months surrounding. This one is not to be missed!

Actors play a scene from the play Arsenic and Old Lace at the Olean Community Theatre in The Enchanted Mountains

Olean Community Theatre, Arsenic and Old Lace Play  [Image: Cattaraugus County]

So whatever you’re idea of winter is, a time to enjoy crisp cool air and fluffy snow or a time to slow down, relax and find special moments indoors, then The Enchanted Mountains of Western NY are where you need to be! Visit us online at EnchantedMountains.com, call us at 1-800-331-0543 or follow us on Facebook!

Halloween Haunts

What’s this! Your cheeks sense chill air, crisply scented with leafy decay as a slow creeping sensation causes the hairs on the back of your neck to rise… it’s Halloween!! State parks are the best year-round, but are also the SP🎃🎃KIEST way to get a taste of nature as the days shorten. We thought we’d list prime, kooky ways to get your heart rate up!

Trains and Treats in California

There’s festive fun aplenty to get your autumn on track at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. Park goers should prepare themselves for a freight–er.. fright! on the Spookomotive Ride, leaving the station hourly this Saturday and Sunday, the 29th and 30th, from noon to 4 p.m. The 45-minute, 6-mile (round-trip) train ride is $15 for adults, $8 for young people aged 2-17, and free for children two years old and younger. A mad scientist will be on board to startle and delight passengers, as well as to field questions regarding how to reanimate sewn-together people, or use lightning as a renewable energy source for your own secret laboratories!

The theme for the weekend is Witches & Wizards, but if you’ve been waiting for the perfect moment to reveal your zombie train conductor costume with all its bells and whistles (overalls are back in a big way this fall, after all), the CSRM would probably be it. There’s trick-or-treating at the museum on Saturday, Oct. 29th, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with plenty of sweets and knowledge to be had for magic folk and ghost engineers alike.

Chugging right along…

[Image: hiddensandiego.net]

Once called Día de los Muertos, Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead, is a pre-Columbian tradition which has its roots in central and southern Mexico. Today, the macabre-yet-bright skeletal imagery and the spirit of venerating deceased loved ones marks a holiday celebrated across cultures here in the United States. [Image: hiddensandiego.net]

If you can’t make the Halloween events at the CSRM and find yourself in southern California, you can check out the Día de los Muertos celebrations at Old Town San Diego SHP. On November 1st and 2nd, there will be historical and modern altars set up around the park to commemorate the inhabitants of Old Town. Visitors can take an altar tour to learn about this tradition, and themselves contribute to the “Tributes & Sentiments” chalk graveyard to remember their own loved ones.

Wicked Woods in New York

A halloween hallow?

Serene or sinister? The more you know, the more your answer will crystalize. [Image: www.pinterest.com]

In keeping with the haunted themes of the season, Green Lakes State Park in Central New York is welcoming one and all to their event, Wicked Woods. On October 29th, from 4 to 8 p.m., admission to the park is free. There will be beachside mini-golf and costumed trick-or-treating, a haunted trail, crafts, a photo booth, and a large bonfire to cap it all off. You can learn more about the event here. As an added bonus, you can work some feel good magic into your eerie festivities by bringing along a non-perishable food item to donate to the local food bank.

Owl-O-Ween in Tennessee

Owls have long been as much a part of Halloween imagery as pumpkins, ghosts or witches. It’s possible this is because of their domination of the nocturnal world, which they survey with their piercing eyes and well-informed demeanor. If you’ve ever taken a break from personifying these mighty nighttime hunters and wondered about the distant hollow hoots one occasionally hears on dusky hikes, Owl-O-Ween at Long Hunter State Park in Hermitage, Tennessee is just the ticket. For $3 per individual, or $5 per family, hikers can explore nature after sundown, while learning about the Barred Owl and its unique night-song from a knowledgeable ranger! October 29th, 7:30-8:30 p.m., guests are encouraged to make a reservation by calling 615-885-2422 or visiting the Long Hunter State Park website, here.

 

Uh oh...

This would look a whole lot more terrifying if you were a field mouse… [Image: www.birdwatchingdaily.com]

Whether you’re looking to take on Halloween fully costumed, or simply enjoy the smells of autumn, there is an inexpensive or free way to satisfy your Halloween cravings at a state park near you. There’s no time like the present to download a Pocket Ranger® mobile app and explore what’s going on!

Take a Note from a Wildfire

Photo taken on 9/20/16

The Soberanes Fire started burning the morning of July 22. In early August, fire officials determined that the fire began as an illegal campfire, that was started around 8:45 a.m. and left unattended near a trail in Garrapata State Park, about 20 miles north of Big Sur. The fire, 100% contained on October 12th, burned for 83 days and spread over 132,000 acres of California’s central coast, particularly in the Ventana Wilderness of Los Padres National Forest. The fire cost more than $230 million in fire suppression response and damages to private and public property, in addition to the death of a bulldozer operator whose rig overturned while fighting the blaze in steep backcountry. [Image: inciweb.nwcg.gov/]

Historically speaking, even though it may be one of the most expensive, the Soberanes Fire is not the most destructive wildfire to decimate thousands of acres in North America. In terms of area burned and lives lost, it isn’t remotely close—the Miramichi in New Brunswick, the Big Burn that scorched Idaho and Montana, and even the Great Chicago Fire all dwarf the Soberanes Fire, despite the fact that the latter burned for two-and-a-half months, and consumed 11 outbuildings and 57 homes in remote areas.

The bulk of the credit for the fire’s relative containment is due to better technology, research and wildfire-fighting science than was available at the time those terrible fires raged—to say nothing of the heroic, well organized, and supremely-trained fire response crews who fly, drive, hike, and parachute into the affected areas to combat the fire from every possible angle. There is however a key factor that connects the fires: their preventable and shared likely geneses, human intervention.

All of the destruction of Soberanes Fire—and the resources expended by heroic efforts imparted by wildland firefighters who battled its disastrous march up steep, secluded mountainsides—started with a single campfire set and abandoned by a careless human. If anything instructive can come from the Soberanes Fire, it’s the importance and reinforcement of good campfire safety and etiquette.

Seriously… Only YOU Can Prevent Wildfires!

The first rule of thumb is of course to heed warnings: never start fires where they are banned by the town, county or state you’re camping in, or when the U.S. Forest Service gives you Smokey-the-Bear eyes. They’re very judgmental if you don’t pay attention.

Failure to adhere to the bans is not only dangerous for adventure seekers, but for wildlife, and the native flora. The Forest Service uses the Fire Danger Rating System to communicate this succinctly. When the fire danger is high or very high to extreme, fires burn quickly and intensely, and can be difficult and dangerous to control. A small spark or ember, hoisted on even a slight breeze, can set a hillside ablaze. Clearly someone wasn't paying attention when this si[Photo by Lance Cheung. Source: commons.wikimedia.org]

Failure to adhere to the bans is not only dangerous for adventure seekers, but for wildlife and the native flora. The USFS uses the Fire Danger Rating System to communicate wildfire danger succinctly. Particularly when the fire danger is “high” to “extreme,” fires burn quickly and intensely, and can be difficult and dangerous to control. A small spark or ember, hoisted on even the slightest breeze, can set a hillside ablaze. [Photo by Lance Cheung. Source: commons.wikimedia.org]

Where fire danger is low to moderate and there isn’t a ban in effect, responsible, attended campfires in designated campfire rings and pits can provide a charming, immersive and educational look into outdoor living and our ancestral past. And also s’mores. When fires are permitted, it is best to use developed, designated fire rings or fire pits.

If fire rings are not present, as may happen when backpacking in undeveloped areas or wilderness, and fires aren’t illegal, still use caution: fires should be as small as possible and only be started when completely necessary. Consider the surface where the fire will burn, and be sure to clear away duff, brush or other combustible material, including your shelter, from the immediate area. Before starting a fire outside of a developed fire ring take steps to minimize the fire’s impact.

Enjoy the Campfire, But Don’t Be Rude!

Whether or not a fire is created in the backcountry or in a fire pit in a designated campsite, materials that enter the fire should be entirely, naturally combustible, as with tinder, kindling, wood and charcoal. Non-combustibles or pollutants like cans, tin foil, plastic and Styrofoam shouldn’t be burned, let alone left in the pit. (Pro tip: Leave No Trace principles are helpful whether you’re tucked away in dense, wooded backcountry, or staying at a KOA. Leaving garbage for the next camper to pick up is always a disappointment and detracts from the enjoyment of nature they and we all seek when we head out for a night of sleeping under the stars.)

Fire: Wouldn’t Want to Live Without It

Fire is a necessary component of life, whether we are in the wilderness or not. It cooks our food, warms our homes, propels our cars and busses, and even provides entertainment along with its warmth, as when we enjoy fireworks or a festive Yule log. But wildfires iterate in stark terms the danger of mistaking fire as a tamed resource. In our homes and in the wilderness, fire will always have a power that requires vigilance and attention for safety. As long as we remember to be mindful of that, campfires and fireplaces will remain as integral and warming as they have been for a million years.

[Image: recreation.gov]

“Gee, we really are lucky,” this camper seems to think, “both to enjoy this campfire as recreation rather than necessity, and because there are so many ways to enjoy a good fire safely!” [Image: recreation.gov]

Leaf Peeping in Southwestern Pennsylvania

By Sheena Baker, Somerset County Chamber of Commerce

Leaf peeping – traveling to view and photograph the changing fall foliage – is a favorite pastime for many on the East Coast each autumn, including in the Laurel Highlands of southwestern Pennsylvania. Brilliant shades of orange, crimson and gold adorn the rolling hills and countryside, turning the region into an awe-inspiring landscape of vivid colors.

There is no exact science to predicting when leaves will change colors, though factors like tree species, elevation and weather play an important role. In the Laurel Highlands, leaf peeping is usually best in late September through early October. We suggest those wanting a more precise fall foliage report visit the Pennsylvania DCNR website for weekly fall foliage reports.

While the Laurel Highlands offers a plethora of activities to celebrate and view the fall foliage, autumn is also the perfect time for a leisurely driving tour of Somerset County’s 10 historic covered bridges, which provide the ultimate leaf peeping tour destinations.

Red Covered Bridge Southwestern Pennsylvania

At one time, Pennsylvania was home to more than 1,000 covered bridges. Though it’s estimated that less than 200 of these unique, charming structures remain today, the Keystone State still boasts the distinction of being the “Covered Bridge Capital of the World.” Thirty-six of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties are home to at least one covered bridge with Lancaster County boasting 29, the highest number of any county.

To the naked eye, Somerset County’s 10 covered bridges may all appear to be the same. They’re all wooden structures with pitched roofs and painted red with white trim. If you’ve seen one covered bridge, you’ve seen them all, right? Wrong. Upon closer inspection, each of Somerset County’s bridges differs from one to the next. Aside from differing in length and the number of spans, the bridges vary in structure, too, as either burr truss designs or multiple kingpost truss bridges. There are other differences, too, if you take the time to look.

The details surrounding these landmarks’ origins are at times a bit fuzzy. For instance, some historians believe Walter’s Mill Bridge, on the Somerset Historical Center property, was constructed in 1830, which would make it the oldest surviving covered bridge in Somerset County and possibly one of the oldest in Pennsylvania. Others maintain it wasn’t built until 1859. Likewise, there are differing opinions on when Trostletown Bridge was erected, and no one knows who built Pack Saddle Bridge over Brush Creek in 1870. Those details are, as they say, lost to history, but we know that these structures were constructed in the mid- to late 19th century. Over the years, many – if not all – have been refurbished and restored, often to accommodate automobile traffic or to repair damage caused by weather-related incidents. The New Baltimore Bridge, originally constructed in 1879, was destroyed by a 1996 flood and was replaced by a replica two years later. Pack Saddle and Glessner bridges have also undergone extensive rehabilitation projects in the past 20 years.

These covered bridges are beautiful any time of year, but are truly breathtaking when complimented by autumn’s rich colors. They bring a certain romanticism and touch of history to life in our fast-paced, everyday society and make for stunning photo opportunities or just a fun day trip.

The Somerset County Chamber of Commerce offers a self-guided driving tour of all 10 covered bridges in America’s County®. Beginning and ending in Somerset, the approximately 175-mile Somerset County Covered Bridge – And More! – Tour guides visitors to the 10 bridges, turn by turn, and highlights other points of interest along the way, including the Flight 93 National Memorial, Quecreek Mine Rescue Site, The Mountain Playhouse, Stonycreek Whitewater Park and the Great Allegheny Passage, tabbed by National Geographic’s travel editors in 2012 as one of the top 10 places in the world to visit during fall. The brochure is available on the chamber’s website or by contacting the chamber and requesting a copy.

One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Rehabilitated Park

It can be difficult to be good to ourselves or the environment in a world filled with deadlines and busy shuffling to work, school and appointments. We are lucky though, when we need a break from the rush, to have parks and wildlife areas where we can escape. Parks where one might find some solace, a quiet respite, or simply hear one’s thoughts while cycling or watching campfire embers die down. Awesomely, there are parks where these realities mingle–parks that were once damaged by human negligence, but, through human work and diligence, are now places people can gather to reflect, unwind and enjoy nature. Here are a few rehabilitated parks where hard work paid off!

Fox Point State Park, Delaware

The first rehabilitated park we would like to share is Fox Point. It is a 55-acre state park more than 50 years in the making. The property that the park now occupies was once part of the Delaware River. Through the end of the 1800s and into the mid-1900s, the Pennsylvania Railroad dumped waste and sewage sludge into the river as it sought to increase industrial land along its right-of-way, essentially burying the river for its own benefit. In 1958, however, S. Marston Fox began lobbying to turn the land over to the people of Delaware, and spent the rest of his life carrying that torch.

And what light that torch has thrown! Access to the Delaware River should be for [Image: destateparks.com]

A well-hoisted torch! Access to the Delaware River is important for all. [Image: destateparks.com]

Through decades of legal battles and environmental remediation, Fox Point State Park is open to day-use activities like picnicking, rollerblading, biking, volleyball, and generally taking in the sights of the Delaware River. The hard work poured into Fox’s vision of a “window on the river” is part of the experience today, one can learn about the park’s history and how the property was rehabilitated while taking in views of Philadelphia and the Delaware Memorial Bridge, and strolling along that same river that inspired northern Delawareans to rally around Fox’s dream for shared access to nature.

Route 66 State Park, Missouri

Route 66 State Park in Missouri, much like its name suggests, showcases some of the history of the highway that captured imaginations as the “Main Street of America” in the middle of the last century. The park is outfitted with an intact 1935 roadhouse (which serves as its visitor’s center) and stuffed with exhibits that commemorate the roadway that John Steinbeck called “The Mother Road.”

But to only point out the park’s proximity to an historic road misses the heart of its complicated history.

Fish and frogs and fun!

A peaceful pond and landscape with no clear indication of there having been a town here. [Image: www.mostateparks.com]

Beyond its roadhouse and visitor’s center, the 419-acre, day-use park is primarily composed of trails that meander through flatland and swamp where there was once the town of Times Beach. Times Beach was a town established (through a newspaper promotion) in 1925.

Whoa! What a deal! [Image: www.allday.com]

Wow! What a deal! Indeed the boisterous language served to draw the attention of those who might wish to escape the summer heat along the scenic Meramec River. [Image: www.allday.com]

At the end of 1982, a devastating flood drove hundreds from their homes just as dioxin contamination (caused by tainted waste oil which had been distributed on the town’s roads to reduce dust) was confirmed. The Environmental Protection Agency recommended that no one return to inhabit the town, and the federal government and the state of Missouri bought out the land. State and federal agencies immediately set about cleaning up the contamination.

While not downplaying the hardship endured by those families, the sweetness at Route 66 State Park is undeniable—after more than a decade of rehabilitation, the park is not only healthy for human visitors, but the native swamps and attending wildlife have blossomed. Birds and frogs and deer provide a superb backdrop to outdoor recreation, where you can take a long bike ride, or learn about the ways people crossed the continent not even a hundred years ago. And all that adventure and education is just a short jot from St. Louis!

Freshkills Park, Staten Island

When its rehabilitation is complete, Freshkills Park on Staten Island will be nearly three times the size of Manhattan’s Central Park and the largest park developed in New York City in a hundred years. An impressive feat of environmental recuperation given that, from 1947 to 2001, Freshkills served New York City and its surrounding metropolitan area as a landfill.

Today, the park is characterized by a sprawl of native grasses and brush, wetlands and gentle blue kills, and sweeping sky views that are unusual in the city. Some of its completed rehabilitated segments, Schmul Park and Owl Hollow Fields, already serve the nearby residents of Staten Island and anyone else who wants to make their way to the island. On special occasions, like the recent Discovery Day, hundreds of acres that are still in development are open to visitors.

All of this within New York City! The view of a "kill," or a small stream or creek, at Freshkills Park. This photograph was taken during Discovery Day, on September 18th, 2016. [Image: Myrrah Dubey]

All of this within New York City, and not a skyscraper in sight! This shows a “kill,” or a small stream or creek, at Freshkills Park. This photograph was taken during Discovery Day, on September 18th, 2016.

Discovery Day speaks to the heart of the space, with free bicycles to borrow, and hour-long Audubon tours to teach guests about the wildlife that has thrived since the landfill was capped and the Park Plan has been implemented. Freshkills Park is a prime example of how a landscape can be brought back from the very brink of pollution, and grow into a green space we all can share and enjoy.

Keep Up the Good Work!

It’s important to reflect on how we interact with the world around us. It’s not always pleasant to think about our actions contributing to pollution, but being honest about it can empower us to make better choices. And, when it comes right down to it, the land that gets reclaimed from the clutches of pollution is just as precious as that which has always been pristine, if only because it speaks to the healing qualities embedded in the determination to make something better for ourselves and future generations.

Even with fall upon us, it’s not too late in the year to volunteer to clean up, or to just take some time for yourself in your favorite park! No better way to find out more about the parks near you than Pocket Ranger® mobile apps, that’ll get you out and on to exploration!