New Parking Lot Construction Underway at Penn Dixie

Penn Dixie is excited to report that the first phase of construction is underway for a new parking lot and entrance road to be located at 3900 Jeffrey Blvd. in Hamburg. The project commenced last week with a generous donation of skilled labor from the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 17. Local 17 has a long tradition of supporting civic projects in the WNY region, including recent work at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and Hamburg Town Park Beach.

“The Operating Engineers Local 17 Apprenticeship is excited to be involved with this project. We have completed many projects over the years, providing our apprentices with valuable real-life heavy equipment operating. It will be nice to work on this important venture right here in our hometown. We’re very happy for the Penn Dixie organization,” says James A. Smolinski Jr., Administrative Manager for Operating Engineers Local 17 Training Fund.

Operating Engineers Local 17 working on the new parking lot at 3900 Jefferey Blvd.

“Penn Dixie is a valuable community and regional asset. The Town of Hamburg is proud of and dedicated to our ongoing support and partnership with Penn Dixie as they advance their vision and mission. This project is a long-sought improvement which started two years ago with discussions between Penn Dixie, Operating Engineers Local 17 representatives, then Traffic Safety Coordinator Jerry Giglio, and myself. It has been a terrific process of collaboration between entities,” says Hamburg Town Councilwoman Elizabeth Farrell.

“We’re essentially starting from scratch with this transformational project. The defunct Pennsylvania-Dixie Cement Company created a very large area strip mine. All soil was removed and the land was mined deeply below grade. As you can imagine, many improvements are needed to make the land suitable for development. We are honored that Local 17 is offering their technical expertise, and that the Town of Hamburg has created such an excellent and supportive environment for our organization’s growth” says Executive Director Dr. Phil Stokes.

This project solves many problems, including growing traffic in the Steelton residential neighborhood caused by increased Penn Dixie visitation, the lack of a permanent street address for Penn Dixie visitors to plug into their GPS, and the shortage of safe parking for Penn Dixie guests. “I’m very much looking forward to not pushing visitor vehicles out of the mud on rainy days,” says Stokes.

Operating Engineers Local 17 apprentices leveling ground. Video by Mark Castner.

The new parking lot will be built on a 5-acre lot located within the remnants of the former quarry. The 5-acre lot was acquired by Penn Dixie in 2008; the purchase was made possible by the East Hill Foundation, Wendt Foundation, Ravenwood Associates, and individual donors. The first step is to grade (i.e., build up while maintaining a level surface) the lot using 12,000 cubic yards of donated fill material. Using excavators, bulldozers, and other equipment, Local 17 will sculpt the material to allow for proper drainage of stormwater while also laying a foundation for the next steps. Local 17 Training Coordinator Kelly Roblee will lead on-site personnel in these efforts.

Progress.

“In the 29 year history of the Penn Dixie Fossil Park, this is the first physical improvement that leads directly to the construction of a permanent building. And the new entrance will immediately remove excessive traffic from the local residential neighborhood. The look and function of the Fossil Park will be dramatically improved. Seeing equipment on site and earth being pushed into place is really exciting. I was recruited many, many years ago as a Penn Dixie volunteer, and I’m proud to still be around and working on this dream project” says Mark Castner, Project Manager and former Board Chair at Penn Dixie.

“Many initiatives over the recent years have led Penn Dixie to this moment in our organization’s history. It is one step of many to provide not only an improved, easily accessible site, but also more science programming for all ages and a destination for our local communities and tourists. We have many people to thank for their time, efforts, and monetary contributions including our staff, volunteers, board members, community supporters and donors,” says Penn Dixie Board Chair Jennifer Hasse.

Visitors fossil hunting on Opening Day, 2022.
Educator Paul M. leading a tour on site.

Once the site is graded, it will be stabilized using geotextile fabric. Gravel will be installed above the fabric, creating a water-permeable and environmentally friendly parking surface. And, the entrance road will be paved to help reduce the amount of loose stone that might be tracked onto area roadways by school buses and other Penn Dixie visitor vehicles.

Following the completion of the parking lot and entrance road, Penn Dixie will add accessory structures such as a pavilion to welcome visitors, storage, fencing, security cameras, and signage. New trails will be required to connect the Jeffrey Blvd entrance to the existing trail network within the park. Local species of vegetation will then be seeded around the perimeter, eliminating the many invasive species that overran the park in the decades following mining activities. Finally, the old park entrance will be closed and Penn Dixie will relocate all operations to the new entrance. As funding is not yet secured for the latter steps, the timing of this move is not certain. In a future phase, a permanent visitor center will be constructed.

3900 Jeffery Boulevard after the first day of construction, May 13, 2022. Video by Mark Castner.

Owl Prowl

August 6th, 8 pm – 9:30 pm

Walk the trails with us and search for barred and great horned owls in action. Learn what special adaptations make owls the ideal nocturnal predator. All participants can dissect an owl pellet to investigate what these silent stalkers get up to while we’re asleep!

Please dress in weather-appropriate gear, pack layers, and wear boots. Additionally, we advise that you bring bottled water as we do not have running water on site. There are portable toilets available near the parking lot. In the event of heavy rain or if we detect lightning on site, the program will be cancelled, you will be notified via email and receive a full refund.

Admission is $7 per participant, free for Penn Dixie members. Registration required, members please contact the office at 716-627-4560 for a registration code. Registration closes at noon on 8/6.

Thank you to Moog Inc. for generously sponsoring this event. 

Cancelation policy: Penn Dixie will not refund payments for cancellations made less than 48 hours prior to the program. Refunds will not be available for registrants who choose not to attend a class/program. If you registered for a program that was canceled by Penn Dixie, you will receive a full refund.

Scavenger Hunt 8/13

August 13th, 6 pm – 7:30 pm

“A way for those who seek to find, a way to leave their world behind” – Follow the clues and journey back in time to collect specific items around the park. Collect everything and receive a Penn Dixie prize! This scavenger hunt is open to adventurers of all ages!

Please dress in weather-appropriate gear, pack layers, and wear boots. Additionally, we advise that you bring bottled water as we do not have running water on site. There are portable toilets available near the parking lot. In the event of heavy rain or if we detect lightning on site, the program will be cancelled, you will be notified via email and receive a full refund.

Admission is $7 per participant, free for Penn Dixie members. Registration required, members please contact the office at 716-627-4560 for a registration code. Registration closes at noon on 8/13.

Cancelation policy: Penn Dixie will not refund payments for cancellations made less than 48 hours prior to the program. Refunds will not be available for registrants who choose not to attend a class/program. If you registered for a program that was canceled by Penn Dixie, you will receive a full refund.

Thank you to Moog Inc. for generously sponsoring this event.

Opening Day Fossil Hunting

Saturday April 30th, 2022 – 9 am to 4:30 pm

Join us on April 30th for the opening day of Penn Dixie’s 27th season! Celebrate spring with the #1 fossil park in the U.S., collect Devonian Period fossils, and enjoy a day exploring the outdoors.

Penn Dixie is open from 9 am – 4: 30 pm. The first tour departs at 9:15 am; subsequent tours are held every 30 minutes. The final tour is 2:45 pm and the park closes at 4:30 pm. Final entry for non-members is at 2:45 pm. Make reservations here. Tickets can be purchased day-of on site, but we recommend booking tickets online if you have a specific tour time that you would like.

The park is open weekends-only from April 30th to June 13th. We are open daily from June 13th to September 5th, then return to weekends-only until October 16th. Our hours are 9 am – 4:30pm. Full information regarding hours and rates can be found here: https://penndixie.org/hours-and-rates/

New to fossil hunting? Not quite sure what to expect from Penn Dixie? Wondering what to bring? Check out our frequently asked questions page: https://penndixie.org/faq/

Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Nature Reserve is generously supported by Erie County and the Town of Hamburg.

Spring Cleanup

Saturday May 14th, 10 am to 12 pm

Join our team of volunteers as we perform the annual cleanup of Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Nature Reserve!

Helpers are needed for various beautification projects including debris pickup and general maintenance. Waterproof boots are strongly recommended; please dress for the weather as we will be outdoors for several hours. Work gloves are helpful, too. We will have a limited supply of gloves on hand for those who do not bring them.

There is no charge for admission and lunch will be provided! All volunteers are invited to stay after the cleanup ends for some free fossil hunting fun.

Contact Sydney Mecca at sydney@penndixie.org to register or use the form below.