Penn Dixie is located at 4050 North Street, Blasdell, New York 14219. Since some GPS units direct visitors to the wrong location, for best results enter ‘Penn Dixie Fossil Park‘ instead of our street address. Visitors frequently report that Apple Maps directed them elsewhere; Google Maps is consistently accurate.
From the NYS Thruway: Take Exit 56, the Blasdell exit; after the toll booth, turn right on to Rt. 179 (Milestrip Rd); at the first traffic light turn left on to South Park Avenue (Rt. 62); proceed south on South Park Avenue for 1.2 miles to the traffic circle; enter the circle and turn right on to Big Tree Road; cross a single railroad track; at the first road on the right, Bristol; turn right on to Bristol Road; proceed to the end of Bristol; turn left on to North Street; the Penn Dixie Site entrance is directly ahead.
From Buffalo along Rt. 5: Proceed west on Rt. 5 from Buffalo, through Lackawanna and Woodlawn; after the Ford Motor Company Plant, take the first left on to Bay View Road, crossing over the east bound Rt. 5 traffic; proceed on Bay View Road across the railroad tracks, up the hill, to Big Tree Road (a blue & white Penn Dixie sign is at this intersection); make a left on Big Tree road proceeding east; the last road on the left is Bristol (Penn Dixie Sign); turn left, go to the end and make a left on to North Street; continue to the Penn Dixie entrance.
Route 5 from the west: After passing the Hamburg Town Park on Lake Erie, proceed to the next traffic light at Big Tree Road (Hoak’s Restaurant is on left & Red Top Hot Dog stand is on the right); turn right on to Big Tree road and proceed east crossing St. Francis Drive, pass the WKBW radio towers; as the road begins to veer right continue straight on Big Tree to the stop sign at Bay View Road; continue across Bay View Road and proceed to the last road on the left, Bristol; make a left on Bristol and go to the end and make a left on to North Street; Penn Dixie entrance is directly ahead.
From Route 20, east or west: Take Rt. 20 to South Park Avenue turn left (east bound) or right( westbound) on to South Park Avenue; proceed north on South Park Avenue; go under a railroad viaduct, enter the circle and turn right on to Big Tree Road; cross over the railroad track; the first road on the right, Bristol, turn right; proceed to the end of Bristol and turn left on to North Street; and the Penn Dixie entrance is directly ahead.
Our final astronomy program of the season brings us the two planets and the arrival of the autumn constellations. Without a moon, we’ll have a clear view of Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn, as well as deep space objects including NGC457 ET Cluster and M31 The Andromeda Galaxy. Admission is FREE to all! No registration needed.
Sun & Moon:
Sunset will be at 6:46 pm
There will be no moon visible during the program
Mars rises at 4:27 pm
Jupiter sets at 8:29 pm
Saturn sets at 10:57 pm
The Summer Triangle – Meridian (Vega, Deneb, & Altair)
The Big Dipper –NW
Cassiopeia – NE
Cygnus/Northern Cross – Meridian
Sagittarius – SW
Hercules – W
Pegasus – E
Andromeda – E
M57 Ring Nebula
M13 The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules
NGC457 ET Cluster
M31 Andromeda Galaxy
Alcor & Mizar
This summer, we teamed up with The Cass Project to create the first-ever Artist-in-Residence at Penn Dixie. After an application and judging process, we selected Bonnie Rush to create and build a meditation labyrinth modeled after a trilobite in a secluded part of our park. Given its isolation, the labyrinth will provide a relaxing place for visitors to reflect in solitude. And, of course, the labyrinth is made from fossils.
Bonnie’s Trilobite Labyrinth is nearly complete. She is looking forward to meeting members and guests on Erie County Earth Science Day — Saturday October 6 — for tours at 10 am, 12 pm and 2 pm. Tours will originate at the Cass Project table under the big tent.
Artist Bio: Born into an artistic family, Bonnie was recognized as the most artistic girl in 8th grade at Holland Central School. She attained a two year vocational training certificate for Landscape and Greenhouse Management, through BOCES. Later, she drew, installed, and maintained various landscapes professionally through 2005, as well as becoming a NYSN/LA Certified Nursery Professional.
She has been involved in many creative projects for friends and family in both construction, remodeling, textiles, and jewelry. She exhibited “Fiery Sunflowers” at the Erie County Fair in 2017 as well as “Resilience” at ART 24/7 in October 2017. In 2018, Bonnie was awarded the inaugural Cass Project-Penn Dixie Artist-in-residence.
Join us for our signature event — Dig with the Experts! This is our very popular, once yearly opportunity to unearth the best, most complete, and most unexpected fossils at Penn Dixie. We’ll have equipment do the heavy lifting and scientific experts on site to help with locating and identifying the best fossils. You’ll have to do your share of splitting and digging, of course, but you’re guaranteed to find something cool and interesting.
Saturday May 18: 9 am to 4 pm Sunday May 19: 9 am to 4 pm Monday May 20: 9 am to 4 pm (limited staffing)
Expert volunteers — including scientists, leading fossil collectors, and experts on local geology — will lead the dig in a freshly excavated section of the Lower Windom Shale and will demonstrate how to find Devonian Period trilobites, cephalopods, fish remains, brachiopods, corals, wood, and a range of other marine invertebrates. Thanks to our experts, we are celebrating our 15th dig in 2019! Saturday participants will receive a special commemorative gift.
But, wait — there’s more! ‘Paleo’ Joe Kchodl will once again join us for a special science talk the evening before the dig. Paleo Joe will present: The Fossil Adventures of PaleoJoe at on Friday May 17 at 6:30 pm in the Gateway Building Auditorium, 3556 Lakeshore Road in Blasdell, NY. This family-friendly presentation is FREE for Penn Dixie members AND registered dig guests, or $5 for the public. No reservations needed.
Director’s Notes: This program will sell out — please reserve early. In commemoration of our 15th dig, we offer Child (under age 18) tickets for Sunday’s dig at $15 each. Children are welcome to attend on Saturday at the regular rate. We do not recommend that children under age 7 attend this program due to the technical and safety requirements. During Dig With The Experts, other areas of Penn Dixie will be open to fossil collectors of all ages and regular tours will be available. Children must be accompanied at all times. Tickets are electronic and will not be mailed.
International Guests: Please email Dr. Phil Stokes at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, order info (i.e., dates, numbers and types of tickets), and membership status. We’ll send you a PayPal invoice directly.
Dig with the Experts draws collectors from around the globe for this unique opportunity, which was developed and is currently co-led by our friends from the Cincinnati Dry Dredgers. Bring a hammer, chisel, safety glasses, newspaper, and paper towels to wrap your fossils. Extra water is recommended, plus bring rain gear just in case the weather doesn’t cooperate.
Food trucks will be on site Saturday and Sunday to serve lunch. Guests are welcome to bring their own food and beverages, as well as a small cart to transport personal items and specimens. Chairs and umbrellas are okay, too. We thank Zoladz Construction Co., Inc. for their help to get Penn Dixie ready for this big event.
Celebrating Penn Dixie’s Heroes: Eileen Eich, Liz Gonsiorek, and Sheila Kelly
By Elizabeth Schiavoni, Development & Marketing Officer
I met Eileen Eich on the Penn Dixie site in the Summer of 2017. She spoke excitedly from her wheelchair about climbing over the piles of rocks and collecting fossils on the site in the 1970s, before it was a Fossil Park and Nature Reserve. Accompanied by her daughter, Judy Klump, who shared fond memories of the site and the role her mother played in creating the site’s operating organization, the Hamburg Natural History Society in 1993.
In the single month I spent with HNHS, up to meeting Eileen, I consistently heard the same levels of enthusiasm for the fossil pits and the people who love them from volunteers, members, and visitors. As a lifelong volunteer for community resources, I was curious about the origins of this dedication. Available copies of the Hamburg Sun and Buffalo News from the 1980s and 1990s and Town of Hamburg meeting minutes tell a story of environmental activism and unwavering citizens answering a call to civic duty.
The next time I saw Eileen, Judy was helping her with the door of the Town of Hamburg Community Center on a warm evening in September. The HNHS staff and President of the Board of Directors waited in the billiard room to hear the story of the founding of the organization from her and two other unwavering citizens invited by Judy.
Liz Gonsiorek regularly wrote about the threat of industrial development on the Penn Dixie site in local papers as developers showed interest from 1989 to 1992. While talking about pleasant walks on the site Liz noted her motivation, “I’m always interested in more green space and preserving that type of activity for people.”
Sheila Kelly also signed on opinion articles for the preservation of the land with Liz and Eileen. She later stayed with the HNHS in different leadership roles until the mid 2000’s. She was honored for her outstanding service to the organization in 2002. Eileen, Liz, and Sheila all attended town meetings arguing against development and for preservation. Liz reflected, “I was really happy that other people were interested in doing something like this.”
The circle of community leaders in cushioned chairs by the fireplace represented generations of support for preserving the Penn Dixie site. The conversation was peppered with light and joyous, recollections of time on the site with family. Judy joking, “I never went there,” for partying when her elders brought up the bonfires. Liz sat with a thick file folder on her lap, pulling out articles, records, and pictures throughout the night. The interview moved down the timeline as Sheila described the group of volunteers drawn to preserving the land becoming the HNHS.
The Town Board appointed Eileen, Sheila, and five other volunteers to a committee on the possible development and management of the site on March 9th, 1993. That May they took their case to the Bayview and Big Tree Neighborhoods surrounding the site during informational meetings for homeowners. The Town purchased the land to be deeded to the HNHS on February 27th, 1995. Sheila believes the date of the first HNHS site cleanup on July 11th, 1996 marks the true beginning of the organization. Liz agreed. “It took a long time to get to the point where we could say we’re going to have a cleanup,” Said Sheila. “I don’t know how many dumpsters of tires and construction debris we picked up. I think some cars were buried in the mud,” she added.
Discussing the level of safety on the site since the volunteer powered cleanups throughout the 1990s lead to the topic of restrictive covenants. Anything going in on the rest of the land that wasn’t the fossil park, “had to be low industrial,” Sheila explained. The present executive director Phil Stokes asked, “So you got it so that the other developments around there wouldn’t be polluting the air?” Liz put it succinctly, “you’re not going to have this park and then have another chemical plant go in.” She thumbed through her file and revealed the relevant paper dating the restrictive covenants to 1992.
I asked about the group acquisition of the wetlands adjacent to the fossil pits in the following years and Sheila confirmed the restrictive covenants made that easier. She continued, “But we were really busy then. I mean we went everywhere. We had poster boards.” Liz put her finger on a picture of the group’s display and passed it around the circle. The text “A Geological Treasure! Right Here in Hamburg!” surrounds a treasure chest on a board above a case of rocks and fossils. Judy looks at the picture and remarks, “I used to do that with Mom. We went to different libraries.” Judy dates the experience to 1995 and 1996 when her own son was 3 and 4 years old and would help with their educational outreach.
We chatted about the town officials, science teachers, dedicated volunteers, and first staff members that aided the group’s growth in those first few years. Eileen conveyed her delight that people came, “from Las Vegas and California, just to visit us.” Eileen also commented on Sheila’s long term commitment to the organization. I asked Sheila if there was anything that she ever wanted to see happen when she worked with the group that didn’t happen. She couldn’t think of anything. “I think they really exceeded expectations. I never thought in my imagination that it would ever be this big.”
Teen Science Café is a series of free, fun, out-of-school events where teens socialize over food with local scientists about current cutting-edge ideas in a relaxed and informal setting. The Buffalo Niagara Teen Science Café is beginning this fall at the Central Library.
High School Voices Needed
Teen Science Cafés are for teens, by teens with the aid of committed mentors. Science Educators from Penn Dixie Fossil Park and Nature Reserve invite Western New York high schoolers to a Teen Science Café interest meeting on March 8th at 6 pm in the West Room of the Central Library by the Fables Café.
What do you want to learn about at the Buffalo Niagara Teen Science Café?
Space? The Environment? Climate Change? Cancer Research? Robotics? Engineering?
Teen Science Cafés are not just for the science geeks; they are for all curious teens, diverse in ethnicity, culture, gender, and motivations for learning about science.
The guide was written by Executive Director Dr. Phil Stokes — a geologist — and Director of Education Dr. Holly Schreiber — a paleontologist — and provides a broad introduction to the history and science of Penn Dixie. Topics in the 18-page paper include:
Geological setting of New York State in the Devonian Period
Plate tectonics affecting the Catskill Basin and WNY
Why many different types of fossils are found at Penn Dixie
An overview of the main types of fossils found, including brachiopods, bryozoans, trilobites, crinoids, bivalves, gastropods, cephalopods, plants, and fish
Images of our fossils with updated nomenclature
A discussion of the fossil-bearing layers at Penn Dixie
Our organization’s history, and how we ended up as Penn Dixie!