It’s just been named the top nature preserve in WNY, yet many longtime residents have never heard of it. Friends of Reinstein Woods executive director Meaghan Boice-Green and her team are working to change that.
“We’re open year-round from sunrise to sunset and offer a true four-season experience,” said Boice-Green. “You can visit in summer to observe turtles and wildflowers. In winter, you can snowshoe and may see mink.”
This beautiful natural site was conceived in the 1930s by Victor Reinstein, a physician and lawyer tasked with liquidating parcels of land in what would become Cheektowaga. Dr. Reinstein was an environmentalist who wanted to pass his love of nature to future generations. So he purchased land and spent the next 40 years developing it.
“Dr. Reinstein planted nearly 40,000 trees,” said Boice-Green. “He helped to build the trail system we have today with his bulldozer. We have two natural streams on our site, but all 19 ponds and wetlands were dug up by Dr. Reinstein.”
The water is home to beavers, turtles, great blue herons, and more. Walking through the world Dr. Reinstein created, you feel far from civilization.
To encourage people to get a first-hand experience, Reinstein Woods offers volunteer engagement programs focusing on birds, fireflies, flowers, and more. Volunteer “citizen scientists” help monitor the populations of native species.
“Through citizen science programs like the national FrogWatch USA initiative, we can gather critical data beyond what our staff could collect,” said Kristen Rosenburg, program coordinator.
FrogWatch volunteers go through a training session and then set out for the ponds and marshes to track the sounds of the nine species of frogs and toads that call Reinstein Woods home. A half hour after sunset, volunteers listen for three consecutive minutes and record the various calls. It’s challenging to distinguish a green frog from an American toad…especially when hundreds of spring peepers are singing at once.
FrogWatch is critical because amphibians in North America are in the midst of a concerning die-off.
“Frogs are an indicator species, so their status is very important to us all,” shared Rosenburg. “At various points in the spring and summer, you’ll hear some incredible choruses. At nightfall, when it’s not windy or raining, their singing is constant.”
Friends of Reinstein Woods works closely with the New York State Department of Environmental Conser-vation to maintain the park, which includes the operation of a 4,900 square-foot education center. The partnership helps Reinstein Woods offer its outreach programs while protecting the park from invasive species.
And what might Dr. Reinstein think of the preserve today?
“I’d hope he’d be pleased with how we’re working to improve local wildlife habitats,” shared Boice-Green. “His goal was to educate young people about the natural world. He definitely achieved that.”
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