Reinstein Throws a Party


(This 951st Buffalo Sunday News column was first published on June 14, 2009.)




The Reinstein Nature Preserve Environmental Education Center


Every time I visit the Reinstein Nature Preserve in Cheektowaga I am more impressed and I take time to offer thanks to the Reinstein family for creating this lovely quiet enclave in the midst of busy suburbia.


The sanctuary has an interesting history. Parts of it preserve the primeval forest that existed before the European settlement of this region in the 1820s. Good fortune created the area when the Holland Land Company survey of Western New York left this small 65-acre section separate from the properties purchased from Native Americans of the Buffalo Creek Indian Reservation by colonists. Thus, unlike those neighboring parcels, this one remained uncut. (This old growth forest extends into a corner of Stiglmeier Park as well.)


Enter the heroes: former Cheektowaga medical doctor, attorney, and urban developer, Victor Reinstein, and his family, who purchased this isolated property in 1932, then cared for and protected it from development; and Department of Environmental Conservation staff members John Spagnoli, Don Becker and Henry Williams, who cooperated with the doctor's heirs to transfer the land to New York State in 1986 as The Dr. Victor Reinstein State Nature Preserve.


Now an excellent new building houses the Preserve's Environmental Education Center. First opened in 2007, the structure is not only spacious and attractive but it also presents an example of state of the art Earth-friendly construction with its efficient climate control and lighting.



The Environmental Education Center Commons Room


Many of the Preserve environmental education activities are supported by a volunteer group, the Friends of Reinstein Nature Preserve. This group's annual fund-raising activity will be held at the sanctuary next Saturday, June 20 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.


Now in its fourth year, their event represents, it seems to me, a creative way to entertain supporters of the Preserve. It features edible food found in the wild.


Participants start by browsing a Chinese auction and raffle and enjoy breakfast catered by Oraziošs Restaurant, a woodwind trio providing live music. They then follow a "dessert trail" through the Woods. At each of seven stations along the trail, they can sample a dessert featuring ingredients from a plant that also grows wild in the Preserve. A program tells them about the foods and volunteers at each station also share natural history information about what they are serving.


 This year the program will also illustrate the impact of our food purchases on the natural environment with each of the desserts featuring locally purchased items or organic ingredients. There will also be information about the role a plant plays in the environment. For example, at the station featuring marshmallow (a dessert-topping that can be derived from invasive common reeds), there will be a discussion of invasive species.


Two of the stations will also feature "green taste tests." Participants can compare the taste of conventionally-grown coffee to shade-grown coffee from the Thanksgiving Coffee Company. Information about the importance of shade-grown coffee for bird conservation will be included.


Oraziošs is obtaining many of its ingredients locally; for example, Kreher Farms is donating eggs for the event. Oraziošs also incorporates leeks in their hash browns, which not only adds to their flavor but feature the leeks growing wild in the Preserve. The trail station pastries are being baked by Buffalo's Carriage Trade Pastries.


Here is the interesting menu for the trail stations:


1. Lemon balm tea bread with mock mint juleps (lemon balm and mint purchased from local grower, Herbally Wonderful; bread featuring organic ingredients.)


2. Local apple pieces with toothpicks for dipping in honey birch sauce, maple syrup and Smucker's caramel dip (maps will explain how food miles are important to consider: choosing local maple syrup vs. regionally produced caramel dip vs. honey birch sauce from Alaska.)


3. Grape tarts with sparkling grape juice (organic ingredients in the tart.)


4. Mallow-graham bars (phragmites used to make a marshmallow-like substance) with the flavored coffee taste test.


5. Dagoba organic roseberry chocolate (containing rosehips and raspberry) with cinnamon walnuts; regular coffee taste test.


6. Black cherry muffins with black cherry spritzer (organic ingredients in muffins and spritzer.)


7. Strawberry-yogurt smoothie (made with local yogurt and local strawberries.)


Tickets are $25, and are available by stopping by or calling Reinstein Woods at 683-5959. The sanctuary is located on Honorine Drive off Como Park Boulevard. -- Gerry Rising