New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced plans to expand the Reinstein Woods Environmental Education Center in the town of Cheektowaga, Erie County, and more than double the facility’s size.
The approximately 7,000-square-foot addition to the education building, will more than double its current square footage and enhance outdoor recreation and environmental education programs offered by Reinstein Woods while improving accessibility for visitors with mobility impairments and other disabilities.
Reinstein Woods is a unique 292-acre complex of forests, ponds, and wetlands surrounded by suburban development. The Environmental Education Center connects people to nature through a variety of outdoor pursuits and provides environmental education to youth and educators through the school year, after-school, and summer camp programs. More than 200,000 people visited Reinstein Woods in 2021, approximately 15 times the number of visitors to the facility in 2007 when the existing 4,900-square-foot Education Center opened. On average, visitors to Reinstein Woods arrive from at least 26 states and 10 foreign countries each year.
The new facility will include space for outdoor mobility equipment such as trail scooters and gender-neutral bathrooms. The expanded facility will also add new space for exhibits and outdoor recreation equipment, including snowshoes and cross-country skis, and a 1,400-square-foot multipurpose room for environmental meetings and presentations. Energy-efficient features are being incorporated into the addition.
Reinstein Woods is helping reduce barriers that limit access to public lands and environmental education. The center supports programming to create lasting bonds with nature, such as partnering with several urban school districts and community centers to provide nature programming for children receiving after-school care. Reinstein also participates in the Connect-Kids-to-Parks Field Trip Grant Program, designed to connect students in New York State with nature and history by assisting with trip costs for schools and community centers.
In addition, DEC is working with partners to explore additional opportunities to offer free and convenient access to Reinstein in 2023, particularly for urban communities and people with disabilities, to help engage more New Yorkers with the shared environment.
The $7 million project will be funded by the Environmental Protection Fund and the New York Works statewide capital infrastructure program. DEC is making strategic investments through its AdventureNY initiative to enhance public access to state lands and facilities and connect people with nature and the outdoors.
Construction is expected to begin in 2024 and be completed 2026. The EPF is a critical resource for environmental programs such as land acquisition, farmland protection, invasive species prevention and eradication, recreation access, water quality improvement, and environmental justice projects. In the 2022-23 State Budget, the EPF was increased from $300 to $400 million, the highest-ever level of funding in the program’s history.
Reinstein Woods is located at 93 Honorine Drive, in the village of Depew, NY. For more information visit DEC’s website.
Photo: Reinstein Woods Environmental Education Center ca 2021.