Michele, a self-proclaimed medium green, combines her enthusiasm for communicating about the green industry, with a deep appreciation for all things gardening. Her blogs provide information from the homeowner’s perspective, moving between what works now and what the future might hold.
Sandwiched between Lewiston Road and the Robert Moses Parkway is a state park in Niagara Falls that’s beautiful and not nearly as well known as it should be. Any guesses as to the name?
No? Well, DeVeaux Woods is a small enclave of the 52-acre DeVeaux Woods State Park that, if you drove by it on Lewiston Road, you’d never know it was there. It’s an oasis with an old-growth forest, no-mow meadows, and open recreation spaces.
“The neighborhood knows we are here, and they utilize us, but outside of the neighborhood, they just don’t know we’re here. It’s a shame because we have so much to offer,” said Tricia Raymond, a 13-year veteran of the New York Parks Department.
According to P. M. Eckel, Research Associate for the Division of Botany, Buffalo Museium of Science, "One can ‘step back in time’ to see what much of Western New York was like prior to European settlement." This 10-acre, old-growth forest has not experienced any major unnatural changes in the past 100 to 200 years. It is dominated by white, red and black oak trees, but also has beech, basswood, ash, and black cherry. The oldest tree is a 316-year-old red oak.
Raymond and five other full-time parks employees keep the forest completely un-touched by mankind.
“We don’t touch it at all because of its old growth. It’s one of the only places that is un-milled,” Raymond said. “We let nature take its course and do her thing. Whenever man comes in, it takes away the beauty of the whole thing. When things fall in here, we let it regenerate.”
When one leaves the forest, one enters the no-mow meadow, a meadow specially cared for by senior landscape architect for state parks, Andy Giarrizzo.
“We sprayed a herbicide on the lawn grass and then reseeded the area with native warm season grasses, Big Bluestem and Indian grass, about four years ago,” Giarrizzo said. “The first season was successful but since we have seen pioneer plants such as pussy willow, poplar and black locust trees appear...this is what happens when you get rid of the grass. Seeds enter the system and Mother Nature takes over.”
Letting the old-growth forest renew and the replanting of the meadow has brought back the local wildlife. Raccoons, skunk, deer, coyotes, ground hogs, and hawks now populate the area. One species that caught park staff by surprise was the return of the sharp-shinned hawk that prefers coniferous and mixed forests.
“They were thought to be extinct from this area. They haven’t been in here for years and all of a sudden, this year, they just kind of popped up and now are nesting in our old-growth woods,” Raymond said.
Emerging from the meadow, the openness of the recreational spaces appears. Those passing on Lewiston Road can see the playground, ball diamond and, in the winter, a lighted ice rink.
“We build it, we flood it and we let nature freeze it,” Raymond said of the 75 x 150 ice rink. Depending on the weather, the rink is open from the end of December to the middle of March.
With so much to offer, DeVeaux Woods is an excellent place to spend a beautiful day and see Mother Nature at her best.
Additional DeVeaux Tidbits
- Eliza A. Keig Grave site www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pr&Grid=61619263
- De Veaux Campus www.niagarafallshistoricpreservation.org/node/14