The past few months have seen a lot of activity at Chestnut Ridge Park, courtesy of the Chestnut Ridge Conservancy.

In addition to the 2nd Annual Artify the Park, a very successful 2nd Annual Kite Festival, and a wonderful Oktoberfest, the CRC has been putting the money we have received from our generous members, sponsors, and patrons to very good use.

The first project was the replacement of the plaque on the Hamilton Ward Memorial at the top of the staircase on the eastern half of the park. The new plaque fills a void on the large stone that had housed at least one previous plaque dedicated to Mr. Hamilton Ward. Ward was one of the original six members of the Erie County Parks Commission — the founding fathers of the Erie County Parks System. Ward and his colleagues identified the various location throughout Erie County back in 1924-5 that would be obtained for the creation of parks within the county.

In addition to his involvement in the creation Chestnut Ridge Park, Ward also donated a large amount of family property to the county that helped to increase the size of Chestnut Ridge.

The replacement plaque is part of a larger effort by the Conservancy to improve the area around the Ward Memorial stone. In August, volunteers from M&T Bank participated in the United Way Day of Caring. In addition to putting two coats of paint on the Martin Lodge and two coats of clearcoat on the fishing pier, a number of volunteers cleaned up the path leading to the Ward Memorial. While there is still additional work to be done — improving the trail from the top of the steps to the monument itself, repairing some of the stone pillars that surround the plaque, and scraping and painting the chain — the plaque and accompanying work fill a long-term void in a monument dedicated to a staunch advocate of the Erie County Parks System.

On a much more visible note, the CRC is proud to announce the installation of three beautiful new signs that welcome guests at the three park major entry points — the main entrance off of Chestnut Ridge Road, the Newton Road entrance, and the trailhead of the Eternal Flame inside the Eternal Flame parking lot (formerly the horse corral) at the south end of the park off of Chestnut Ridge Road.

Two of these signs will replace existing, older signs; one at the main entrance and the other at the Eternal Flame trail head. The Newton Road sign, which is identical to the other main entrance sign, is located on a small triangle of land a short walk from the parking lot.

The two larger signs at the main entrances contain a large topographical map of the entire park, along with “cork” boards where guests can hang directional signs to shelters. There is also a “mailbox” to hold handouts, maps, or brochures, and locking boxes to hold more permanent information such as schedules of activities and other park announcements. The smaller Eternal Flame sign has a map of the eternal flame trail and the requisite warnings about staying on the trails and keeping off of the rocks.

These signs are designed to withstand the diverse weather experienced in Western New York and have a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years. The signs were funded by the CRC at the request of the Erie County Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry. They were designed and produced by Buffalo-based Hadley Exhibits. Hadley worked in conjunction with the Parks Department to complete the installation.

Further enhancements to the surrounding areas will be made by the county in Spring 2018. This will include larger concrete pads and landscaping, as well as benches near the Eternal Flame sign.

The signs are the largest project undertaken by the CRC since the restoration of the five large murals inside of the casino in 2013. This was a fantastic, high-visibility project for the CRC. It was a team effort between the CRC and the county — a project that was not in the county budget, but was a high priority for the Parks Department. The Conservancy made a significant investment using the money we have raised at our galas, from sponsors, and from our generous membership.

It is a great example of the cooperative and collaborative relationship between the county and the Conservancy. We are indebted to the Erie County Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry for their continued support of our organization.