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

October 8th, 6:30 pm – 8 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.

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.

We’re Hiring!

Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Natural Reserve is a top-ranked destination for science enthusiasts of all ages. With a mission of hands-on science education, we encourage our visitors to learn about the natural world in an outdoors setting. Our programs emphasize natural history — including geology and paleontology, ecology, astronomy, local history, and other STEM fields. We serve 18,000 guests annually, including many who travel across the country to dig our fossils and explore our park.

We are hiring part-time educators for the 2022 season. The educator is the initial interface between Penn Dixie and guests and is responsible for all admissions and retail transactions. The ideal candidate is driven to provide an outstanding learning experience for visitors of all abilities and backgrounds. Educators are expected to be friendly, helpful, and consistently maintain a positive attitude despite the challenge of working outdoors with large groups of visitors. We expect the best from our staff at all times. Candidates do not need a formal background in geology or paleontology, but must be willing to learn.

Essential Functions

  • Demonstrate enthusiastic and welcome behavior at all times.
  • Provide excellent customer service and be knowledgeable in Penn Dixie’s science, history, and programming.
  • Facilitate positive, memorable experiences for our guests by sharing with them your knowledge of the natural world and your enthusiasm for the process of scientific discovery.
  • Explain and promote Penn Dixie programs, membership, gift shop merchandise, summer camps, birthday parties, and special events.
  • Respond to guest needs immediately, including issues requiring first aid.

Experience, Skills and Personal Qualities Required

  • All Penn Dixie staff are required to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19
  • Ability to work a flexible schedule including weekends, holidays and evenings
  • A ‘people person’ with a friendly, outgoing personality
  • Must have your own reliable transportation to/from work
  • Interest or knowledge in science
  • Ability to multitask and prioritize
  • Work independently and proactively
  • Strong teamwork and collaboration skills
  • Familiarity with educational, nonprofit, or retail sector is a plus
  • Able to perform well under pressure
  • Detail oriented, organized, motivated, responsible and dependable
  • CPR and Basic First Aid training are required for all staff

Physical Demands

  • Speaking in small and large groups
  • Walking and standing outdoors, sometimes for extended periods
  • Bending/stooping frequently
  • Dealing with highly variable weather conditions
  • Ability to lift/carry up to 40 lbs

The application can be downloaded here: 2022 Educator Application.

Candidates must email the completed application, a resume/CV, and a cover letter to Dr. Holly Schreiber at holly@penndixie.org.

Stargazing in Hamburg

Join us at Penn Dixie for an out-of-this-world experience! Our astronomers will map the night sky — including stars, planets, constellations, and deep space objects — for you using a variety of telescopes and specialized equipment. Guests are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, warm clothing, blankets, a flashlight, and food/beverages. We’ll have plenty of telescopes, but you can bring yours along, too, if you’d like some expert advice. All ages welcome. Registration is not required. Check our social media for weather-related updates.

Thanks to the generous support of Moog Inc. and the Town of Hamburg, there is no charge for our evening astronomy programs.

Remaining 2022 Dates:

  • Saturday, August 20th, 8:30 pm – 10:30 pm Rescheduled to rain date: Saturday, August 27th, 8:30 pm – 10:30 pm
  • Saturday, September 24, 8:30 pm – 10:30 pm
  • Saturday, October 15th, 7 pm – 9 pm

Please plan to arrive a few minutes before the scheduled start time so that you have time to use the restroom and set up your lawn chairs / blankets. If you arrive after the start time, we ask that you dim your headlights when pulling into the parking lot.

A solar eclipse viewed through Penn Dixie telescopes.

Thinking about purchasing a telescope? This telescope guide offers some great suggestions from Penn Dixie astronomer Ernie Jacobs. You can also download our Astronomy Night guide — also prepared by Ernie Jacobs — to learn more about our programs.