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A word from your supervisor: Steven Walters

HAMBURG — Sometimes, you get more from the farmers market than locally-grown fresh produce and homemade products. Sometimes you get something entirely unexpected.

That’s what I got the other Saturday, when I met the new Editor of The Sun, Jessie Owen. Before I even had a chance to ask how her first week was, she was asking if I would write a regular column, to help inform her readers of what was going on in Hamburg. Needless to say, I accepted. So without further delay, let’s begin.

Since we are in the midst of the summer, I thought it best to use this first column to write about Woodlawn Beach. As everyone is well aware by now, the town took over operations of the park in early 2011, after the state, due to budget cuts, decided to close the park.

This was a win-win deal for everyone. The state was able to take a liability off of its books, without having to deny the public the access to the beach. The town was able to obtain a park with a mile-long sandy beach, a multi-million dollar pavilion, nature trails and a picnic grove, without having to pay a lease payment of any kind back to the state. Most importantly, the public has continued access to this jewel.

Once the town took over, it was our goal to make this a destination park that would become more than just a beach. To accomplish this, we first entered into an agreement with Tucker Curtain, to operate a beach bar. What we got was something similar to what you would expect in a gulf coast resort town. We opened Pirates Cove kids’ zone for the younger beachgoers. Improvements were made to the picnic grove and we worked to make the beach more handicap accessible.

The beach itself is the prize. It is groomed every day. Surrounded by natural beach dunes, it has the appearance of an isolated paradise. Still, it has excellent views of the windmills and Buffalo. Volleyball nets and beach tennis nets provide added activities.

On any given day, beach chairs and umbrellas spread far and wide, as people come from as far away as Canada and Pennsylvania, just to enjoy what this beach has to offer. And don’t be surprised to see dozens of boats pulled up right next to the beach.

Make no mistake, the town’s takeover of Woodlawn is a true success story. The Woodlawn Lodge, which has been made available for private party rentals, has been booked every single weekend the past two summers, with weddings, showers, birthdays and corporate events. We have even provided a spot on the beach for the actual wedding ceremonies.

The Adventure Camp, a summer day camp with a strong focus on science and nature, has been running at capacity nearly every single week.

There have been numerous sporting events, including a national beach tennis tournament, a flag football tournament and a kayak regatta. A carnival was held last year, in celebration of the town’s bicentennial, and the annual 4th of July celebration continues to grow, every year. A weekly drum circle and a concert series add to the enjoyment.

Last year, more than 125,000 people came down to the beach. This year, we expect no different, despite the not-so-stellar weather during the month of June (which proves that Woodlawn has truly become much more than just a beach).

As more people learn about all the excitement going on at the beach, more people are coming. We shattered our single day attendance this year, when nearly 1,200 cars came through the gate. This beat our previous single day high of 777 vehicles.

Just as important, we told the public that we thought we could make the park entirely self-sufficient in three – five years. I am elated to say we are well on our way to doing just that.

With only one month of the summer season left, I encourage everyone to spend a day at this amazing park, where there is truly something for everybody.

I would like to end this week’s column by welcoming and congratulating Jessie Owen on becoming the new editor and I look forward to working with her.

I would also like to thank outgoing Editor Chris Gordon for his commitment to our great community and wish him well on his new endeavors. I got to know Chris well, during his time as editor. I consider Chris a friend and a true professional and know he will continue to be a success.
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