If some of your favorite memories involve outdoor adventures, or if you are looking to create some of these memories with your children, then Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve is the place for you. With five interpretive trails, which are full of information stations and helpful brochures, as well as a handful of other trails, and a bustling Visitor Center, you will run out of time before you run out of things to do. Reinstein has a pretty packed schedule of events with weekly After-School Escapes and different themed-guided tours, so it is easy to find something for everyone.
When I arrived to Reinstein, I signed the visitor log and studied my trail pamphlet carefully. There was the Footprint Trail, which runs through forest and wetland ecosystems and gives examples of how to minimize human impacts on nature. The Lily Pond Loop was another option, where I could walk the shore of Lily Pond and have the opportunity to see the different aquatic wildlife living there. However, I decided to hike the History Trail, a 0.8-mile trail that would transport me back to the beginnings of Reinstein Woods and teach me how it became the serene get-away that it is today.
The sign depicting the beginning of my journey clearly stated no brochures accompanied this trail. The preserve wants you to interact with the trail, and bounce from the informational placards lining the walkway. The placement of these placards also impacts your experience on this trail because they are located in areas where certain events happened. This was one of my favorite parts of the trail, the very whimsical way you were encourage to hike it.
The first sign informed me that the history of this preserve started before I had even pulled into the driveway. I had been driving down Honorine Road, the road constructed to the woods that followed the main route of the Buffalo, Bellevue and Lancaster Railroad and was named after Dr. Victor Reinstein’s first wife, Honorine.
As I continued on the trail, I approached the Secluded Meadow Swamp where I read about how Dr. Reinstein built 19 marshes, swamps and ponds on his 292 acres of land. Further down the path, the trees changed from a mixture of ash, maple and black cherry to a row of towering Norway Spruces. In front of these evergreens I learned that Reinstein planted 40,000 spruces, pines and tamaracks on over 20 percent of the property between 1950 and 1955. These trees were pillars of the dedication Dr. Reinstein had to nature and the wildlife on his property.
As a young man, Dr. Reinstein explored the vacant land he one day would own. He purchased a majority of his estate in 1932, and acquired the additional parcels by 1942. Dr. Reinstein worked tirelessly to alter the land through the creation of ponds, roads and tree plantings. He transformed the land from open fields with shrubby bushes and plants, to a variety of ecosystems attracting wildlife, and the people who wanted to learn about the wildlife. Reinstein was cautious in every decision he made, designing the roadways on his property by only cutting down the newest trees in order to preserve the older ones.
Not only did I get a history lesson on this trail, I got to experience nature first hand. I stumbled upon six large turkeys enjoying an afternoon nap, got into a staring contest with a deer by Flattail Lake, and then watched a heron hunting in one of the marshes. I also learned about the plants of the preserve by browsing through informational packets. Do you know the distinguishing features of a beech tree? Or that purple fruits of the black cherry tree are quite a treat for the birds? I do now.
Believe it or not I did all of this in an hour and a half! The squeaking trees, the whistling reeds and the singing birds made me feel so relaxed, I lost track of time. My retreat to Reinstein Woods was a great way to slow down from the busy life so many of us lead. Instead of worrying about where I had to be next, I was learning the story of the preserve and getting to experience it first hand. This gave me a deep respect for Dr. Reinstein and his family. It is a feeling that is hard to explain, and one I encourage you to go and experience yourself. Grab the kids and take a couple hours to learn some history, sneak up on some wildlife and make a memory at this hidden gem in Depew.
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