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Setting the scene: Log benches in nature park add to ambiance

Submitted Photos Pictured are some of the people that toured the Cassadaga Lakes Nature Park, following the Eagle Scout celebration ceremony for Chris Bacon. In the front of the photo is one of the log benches he constructed. On the right is a nature blind that is currently under construction, by Mud Lake.

CASSADAGA — One of the newest parks in the county has some new benches, thanks to an Eagle Scout Project.

Chris Bacon of Troop 219 in Cassadaga, under the guidance of Marcus Clark who served as his mentor, built five log benches and placed them in the Cassadaga Lakes Nature Park. The log benches were made from fallen trees in the park. The trees were either cherry or black locust. The trees were split in two, with cut logs placed beneath.

The benches were assembled and coated using donations from Home Depot in Fredonia. Members of Troop 219 assisted in the project.

Bacon actually finished the work last year. He submitted his paperwork to the Allegheny Highlands Council to become an Eagle Scout and was approved over the winter. Even though he is no longer part of the troop because he aged out, the scouts held an Eagle Scout celebration earlier this month and after the ceremony toured the nature park.

CASSADAGA LAKES NATURE PARK

Chris Bacon, right, is pictured with Nancy Wickmark on one of the benches he constructed.

The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy established the Cassadaga Lakes Nature Park in late 2019. It was unofficially opened to the public the following spring.

The 77-acre site features 26 acres of shoreland wetlands, 1,100 feet of natural shoreline along Upper Cassadaga Lake, and is a refuge for birds, waterfowl, amphibians, and other wildlife.

Located on Route 60 north of Cassadaga, the nature park is tucked away. When heading south on Route 60, the driveway into the nature park is the first right after Camp Gross. There is no sign on the road, commonly known as “Old Route 60.” After pulling onto the road, signs mark the park’s entrance behind a swath of trees and bushes.

According to Jeremy Woolson with the CWC, so far they’ve raised about $100,000 for the park through community donations and grants.

There are currently two moderately developed trails – an easy loop (0.8 miles) and a center loop (1.8 miles) that overlap each other near the parking area but then separate to provide a shorter, flatter trail on the easy loop and a longer more rolling terrain hike on the center loop. The easy loop trail is marked with orange markers and center loop trail is marked with blue markers.

Volunteers are currently constructing a welcome kiosk pavilion near the parking area as well as a nature blind located on the edge of Mud Lake. No other facilities or amenities are provided on site. There is no easy access for fishing from the site as most of the shore is dominated by emergent swamp that impenetrable on foot or by boat.

Birdwatching, botanizing and nature walking are all common uses for the trails and forests.

Nancy Wickmark is a member of the Cassadaga Lakes Association, and a volunteer with the nature park. She worked with Bacon with the design and location of the benches.

FUTURE PLANS

Some of the benches were placed on the easy path. Wickmark said one of their long-term goals is to put in a hard surface so the easy path can be used by senior citizens or those with mobility issues, which is why they wanted benches on that path. “On that trail, we want to put in a hard pack surface. That’s going to take material, equipment and manpower to do that, so we’ve been trying to do additional funding through grants,” she said.

Woolson said that will cost another $15,000, and could be more, depending on the type of surface installed.

The easy path ends at Mud Lake, where the nature blind is being constructed. There has been talk of placing picnic tables there as well, so people can have a picnic lunch. Those who visit would be responsible for removing their own trash.

Another plan they have is to place a sign on Route 60. Wickmark said the sign has been built, however they’re in the process of getting permission to install it. Once it’s up, and the pavilion and nature blinds are finished, the CWC plans on holding ribbon-cutting to officially open the park.

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