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Genesee County officials recognize Parks and Recreation Month

By Joanne Beck


This year’s theme for Parks and Recreation Month, assigned and organized by the National Recreation and Park Association, is to “Rise up” in support of the many parks and recreational activities throughout the country, and especially for those that help to make it all happen.

Genesee County Legislature heeded that call Wednesday and presented a proclamation to Deputy Highway Superintendent Paul Osborn and Conservation Education Program Coordinator Shannon Lyaski in honor of July’s Parks and Recreation Month designation.

Lyaski acknowledged how much volunteers "have added to the facilities and programs" within the parks and recreation department.

“We appreciate that, and how many opportunities there are to enjoy those blessings we have, and that natural environment,” Lyaski said during the Legislature’s meeting at the Old Courthouse. “It means that the community supports us and appreciates us. Thank you very much for your support.”

Both county employees have worked on Genesee County Park and Forest to ensure that its seven programs and grounds, including the Interpretive Nature Center, are well maintained and operate smoothly. County history cites that, for more than 30 years the park has developed because of the interest and dedication of community groups and organizations such as 4-H, Boy Scouts, BOCES, Jaycees, Lions Club, Sertoma and Vietnam Veterans. These groups planted trees, constructed pavilions and playgrounds, cleared hiking trails, and placed memorials.

There is also DeWitt Recreation Park on Cedar Street, complete with grounds, a walking path, pavilions, and a pond.

Thanks to those volunteers and committed employees Osborn and Lyaski, residents can enjoy DeWitt's popular offerings and 430 acres of forest and rolling hills, which includes over 10 miles of trails, five ponds, and a variety of wildlife, trees and woodland plants.

Osborn has a Bachelor's Degree in Landscape Architecture from the State University of New York College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry. He has been with Genesee County for more than 23 years and said that none of his department’s success could have happened without ample support.

“We’ll continue to do that with your support, and with the support from the cities, towns, villages, the state and the federal government,” he said.

The National Recreation and Park Association established the Rise Up theme to recognize all of the professionals “who build strong, vibrant and resilient communities through the power of parks and recreation.”

“This July, we are bringing attention to how important it is to rise up and support our field because every day, park and recreation professionals rise up for their communities in service of equity, climate-readiness, and overall health and well-being,” the organization’s website states.

“There’s no better way to celebrate Park and Recreation Month than by highlighting the people who faithfully serve their communities all year long. Join us this July as “We Rise Up for Parks and Recreation.”

According to county history, did you know that …
Genesee County Park & Forest, at 11095 Bethany Center Road, East Bethany and which attracts thousands of visitors each year, was established in 1915 and is recognized as the first County Forest in New York State?

The land was originally purchased in 1882 in order to supply wood to the County's Poor House for cooking and heating.

The County Forest was created through the efforts of George Fleming, County Home superintendent, who initiated the planting of 31,000 trees. During the 1920s, New York State helped by providing the evergreens and manpower to plant additional trees. By 1935 over 169,000 trees had been planted.

The first proposal for the creation of a County Park was entertained in 1949; however, the project was not started until 1966, when the thinning and pruning of trees began. As the park expanded so did the need for forest management. In 1971, the County Legislator appointed the first full-time Park Supervisor-Forester.

In 1998, an Interpretive Nature Center was erected in the park. Constructed by volunteers and funded by environmental grants, the Nature Center is open year-round. The Nature Center houses several environmental education displays and plays host to a variety of interpretive programs. An environmental educator is on staff to assist residents and coordinate volunteer efforts.

For more information about county parks, click here

Photo: Genesee County Legislator Brooks Hawley looks on as Shannon Lyaski says a few words of gratitude and thanks, and Paul Osborn stands to her right during the county Legislature meeting Wednesday. Photo by Joanne Beck.

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