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Turn over a new leaf: Lake Erie Seaway Trail Center will host ‘Fall Into a Book’ event

WELCOME ALL — The Lake Erie Seaway Trail Center is located at 4968 Lake Shore Road in Hamburg. Photos by Jessie Owen.
HAMBURG — The Lake Erie Seaway Trail Center stands at the edge of the Hamburg waterfront, welcoming visitors to explore the historical, cultural, environmental, scenic and recreational resources in the local area.

Vice President Patty O’Shei has spearheaded an endeavor to expand this local attraction into a destination spot, offering events the whole community can participate in.

The Lake Erie Seaway Trail, which is affiliated with the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, but not owned by that entity, is a nonprofit organization run entirely by volunteers. It opened in 2005 thanks, in part, to support from then-Erie County Deputy Clerk Kathy Hochul.

“She, along with the community, took this on as a visitors center,” said LESTC Vice President Patty O’Shei. Located inside the former Wanakah Water Works building on Lake Shore Road in Hamburg, the visitors center is the only one of its kind in the local area.

The non-profit has evolved, during the years, and kicked off 2012 with a new board of directors, including O’Shei, President Lyn Braun and Treasurer Francine Geyer. O’Shei said that the board is currently looking for an individual to fill the post of secretary and handle correspondence, meeting minutes, etc. The board of directors meets once, per month.

In April of this year, the board held an unofficial re-opening, complete with a ribbon-cutting, attended by local officials and including special events for the community.

“This new board wants to do more than a visitor’s center,” O’Shei said. “For so many years, I’d see activity on other lakes and say, ‘Why not here?’ We have this huge, gorgeous lake.”

Her co-worker, Jason Ersing, an eighth grade biology teacher at Frontier Middle School, has set up a satellite classroom in the center, where his students get a fully hands-on experience. Ersing has applied for and received several grants, in his ongoing effort to offer more to the children of the community.

O’Shei said that the LESTC’s board of directors is encouraged by Ersing’s work and wants to continue that and other programs, to encourage community involvement. “Our motto is tourism, education and environment,” she said, adding that these students, as well as any other area young people, are encouraged to volunteer at the center. They will be rewarded by receiving community service hours for their efforts.

To pull in visitors and raise awareness about the LESTC, many events have been added to the agenda, at the local visitors center.

A speaker series has been ongoing, throughout the summer, and has included talks about the issues affecting Lake Erie, by Associate Director of the Great Lakes Program at the University at Buffalo Helen Domske and a history of Lake Erie by former Assemblyman Dick Smith.

That series will be continuing into the fall. “Economics of the Lake: Historically and going forward, and the impact of doing nothing” will be lead by Bruce Fisher, the director of the center for economic and policy studies at University at Buffalo, The State University of New York.

Cameron Daboin, the founder of the Greater Western New York Paranormal Society will speak about paranormal activity on Oct. 24, the week before Halloween.

Domske will return to the center on Nov. 24, to speak about the invasive species of Lake Erie. “It’s amazing to me how much she knows,” O’Shei said, about the senior education specialist for New York Sea Grant (Cornell University).

A ROOM WITH A VIEW — In the center’s sunset room, visitors can watch the sun set over the lake.
All speaker series events will be held in the LESTC’s meeting room, which can be rented by individuals or groups. In addition, the center’s Sunset Room can be utilized, for people to watch and “buy” a sunset. Those who rent this room will receive a certificate with a photo of the sunset they watched. O’Shei said that her family had a certificate made for her father, in honor of her late mother. These sunset photos are often used for first wedding anniversaries, celebrated with paper.

The center itself is open from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. O’Shei said that it is the board’s goal to have the spot keep its doors open on weekends, year-round, and to hopefully be open some weekdays, next year.

“We get a lot of traffic coming through,” O’Shei said, adding that the visitors include not only people from all over Western New York, but many individuals from other countries. A biker on a 16-day trip around Lake Erie recently stopped into the center on day five of his journey.

Free beach access from the center invites community members to swim, collect fossils or just enjoy nature. A tunnel under the road provides direct access to the beach, which O’Shei called a beautiful place to visit, day or evening. “We have people go down there to watch the sunset all the time,” she said. “It’s such a cool thing.”

WHERE DOES THIS GO? — A public tunnel runs under Lake Shore Road, providing access to the beach.
The board of directors has applied for grants to do more work to the center, including replacing railings that used to be on the steps leading down to the beach. Following several storms and some vandalism, several places are in need of repair or replacement. In addition, O’Shei said that she would like to hold an art contest to decorate the large back wall of the center, which faces the water.

“The town has put tons and tons of work into [the building],” she said. “It’s been really great to work with.” Hamburg Councilwoman and Deputy Supervisor Amy Ziegler is the board liaison to the trail and attends meeting and gives input.

Because Frontier middle schoolers utilize the center, the school often allows the LESTC to use its parking lot for events, such as the upcoming “‘Fall’ Into A Book Author Fair,” which is scheduled for 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28 at the center.

Authors of a variety of genres will be in attendance to sign their books, host children’s activities and conduct book readings and book talks. The fair will include authors Anthony Antek, Edward Averett, Charles Benoit, Nancy Best, Cliff Fazzolari, Rob Gallitto, Pam Logan, Jeanne Selander Miller, Tim O’Shei, Mark Privateer, Cheryl Pula, Jeff Schober, Tim Shaw, David Smeltz, Alison Smith, Kevin Sylvester and Gary and Justin VanRiper.

The event is free and open to the public. “This really took on a life of its own,” said Patty O’Shei. “This is a great opportunity for the town of Hamburg community to embrace the love of reading and share it with each other and their children.”

The center will also participate in the Great Lakes Beach Sweep on Sept. 21.

Visitors to the center may browse the gift shop, which includes clothing, gifts, framed photos, items consigned from Beach Bum Glass Cottage and more. View items from Lake Erie shipwrecks, check out the fish room, which depicts waterfowl and fish from the lake and more. Kids can also visit the Kid Zone.

The center is currently looking for donations of two computers. In addition, O’Shei said that it is currently in need of both family and corporate sponsors. “We are completely non-profit and we rely on memberships and local businesses to keep us going,” she said. Various levels of sponsorships are available.

To donate to the organization, become a sponsor or, for more information, contact 627-2773 or LESTC2012@gmail.com or visit www. lakeerieseawaytrail.org. The LESTC is located at 4968 Lake Shore Road in Hamburg.

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