To celebrate the arrival of the New Year, I took advantage of the more moderate weather to participate in a short First Day Hike at Letchworth State Park.
Many of our state parks have been sponsoring these hikes in recent years. Events were also held along the Genesee Valley Greenway.
The First Day hikes are a great alternative to shuffling around the house after perhaps an evening of over-indulgence.
A couple of months ago I learned that the path had been cleared for the Autism Nature Trail, behind the new Humphrey Nature Center in Letchworth State Park. Given my professional background in occupational therapy, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I have been peripherally involved with this project.
A large ant sculpture marks the entrance to this trail. It was created from discarded farm equipment by two welding students from Wayland-Cohocton Central School who were studying in Olie Olson’s in the Metal Trades program at the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership’s May Center in Mount Morris.
The sculpture is an interactive piece, with a seat that moves up and down, and it produces various sounds when used as a percussion instrument.
The trail was an easy walk, about a mile and fairly level. The last time I had walked this area, with the landscape architects and a large advisory committee, designs were only on paper. It was a thrill to see the laminated signs describing each of the planned features. My dog enjoyed greeting other people, and sniffing woodland scents.
This trail, in a public park, will be open to all park visitors. The features will be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities, though designed to particularly interest people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Natural materials and experiences will be available at stations. A focus on sensory materials, simple musical instruments, climbing and running, and exploring are some of the themes.
Construction on the paths and features will begin this year. More information and a donations link can be found at autismnaturetrail.com.
While at the nature center, I was able to pick up the winter issue of The Genesee Naturalist, including schedules of activities planned this winter, both indoors and out. I always feel that I don’t visit this park nearly often enough. Last winter I think I didn’t make it at all, because I was dealing with a health issue.
The schedule includes many outdoor opportunities at three levels of difficulty, and two educational levels (introductory and secondary). Indoor nature talks occur regularly on Sunday afternoons at 1 p.m. through Feb. 23. For more information, call (585) 493-3600 or go to https://parks.ny.gov/parks/79/details.aspx.
Additional talks which have a more historical focus will again occur at the Mount Morris Dam and Recreation Area Visitor’s Center, 6103 Visitor Center Road off of Route 408 between Mount Morris and Nunda. The talks are scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturdays beginning Feb. 15 and will continue through April 11. For more information, call (585) 658-4790 or go to https://www.lrb.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation/Mount-Morris-Dam/ .
Julie Brocklehurst-Woods has been a Master Gardener Volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Livingston County since 2002. She enjoys helping all gardeners become successful gardeners, especially helping people identify tools and strategies to prioritize and simplify their gardening tasks. She will answer gardening questions by email: JulieBW48@gmail.com.