To: Our Supporters, Members, And Friends
As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented health crisis and the worst natural disaster of our time. Our downstate neighbors in New York City suffer greatly while the risk here in Erie County and elsewhere in the country grows every day. Uncertainty is the new norm, and the news is shocking and depressing. For me it is incredibly painful to witness friends and loved ones succumb while medical personnel and others on the frontlines bravely fight for our lives and future.
Geologists study natural disasters; these are generally local events such as earthquakes or floods. In my last gig, I taught college students about natural disasters, and I can easily say that I never imagined or prepared my students for a global event of this magnitude. But, there are lessons to be learned from the past and how we have responded to similar challenges.
Humanity is resilient – we wouldn’t have gotten this far, after all, without some special advantages that other species don’t have. This was the premise of my TEDx talk, ironically. Humans communicate better than any other animal, we’re adaptable, and we are capable of great acts of compassion and empathy. No matter what the disaster that befalls us, history teaches that if we stick together, we can overcome problems great and small.
All nonessential New York businesses were ordered to close as of March 22 and Penn Dixie is no exception. Our 25th anniversary season is delayed indefinitely. We’ve rescheduled some programs; others are cancelled but may return if we can fit them in. Regrettably, we’ve been forced to reduce our staffing as all field trips, tours, and community events are on hold. It’s an extremely difficult and frustrating time. If he were asked, noted pessimist and Simpsons character Comic Book Guy might call it the
If you’re concerned about the success of Penn Dixie, you’re not alone. We are a small business and are struggling like many others. Fortunately, you – and thousands of science enthusiasts like you – have supported us in the past with program fees, admissions, memberships, and donations. We set aside some of these funds for a rainy day, and well – it’s pouring!
Thankfully, local government has stepped up to ensure that we can keep the lights on this spring. I am grateful to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Hamburg Town Supervisor Jim Shaw for making sure that Penn Dixie and the other cultural groups in Erie County can continue our missions despite the economic downturn. In addition, we thank Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw for personally delivering checks to these groups for expeditious relief!
If you’re able, there are many ways to help:
1) Post an online review of Penn Dixie. Online reviews factor heavily into how Penn Dixie’s website is ranked in searches, plus travelers find them extremely helpful when choosing a place to visit. Do you have a great experience to share with the world? Your words make a difference! Post a review on Facebook – Post a review on Google
2) Plan to visit once we reopen. We don’t know when this will be, but I promise that the fossils are here and ready to be unearthed.
3) Send a letter or email to a local elected official to show how much you appreciate their support of places like Penn Dixie. This type of advocacy is inexpensive, efficient, and extremely effective. If you want to join our effort, please email me for details.
4) Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Many people read the news — whether online or in print — and are curious to see how other people feel about important current issues. Elected officials love to take the temperature of the community this way, too. Bonus: Newspapers are inundated with letters discussing politics. Unique and inspiring submissions covering other topics are more likely to get published.
5) Make Hamburg Natural History Society/Penn Dixie the beneficiary of your Amazon Smile donations. When you make a purchase, Amazon will make a small donation to our organization. This option does not cost you anything extra.
6) Purchase or renew a 12-month Penn Dixie membership. Memberships directly support our programming and operations, and we could not get by without our loyal and enthusiastic member base. We will be happy to give you and your family an exciting tour of Penn Dixie once we reopen. And in the interim, members are welcome to visit on their own. You can also purchase our Membership Gift Pack as a gift for family and friends.
7) Make a tax-deductible donation to support our mission of hands-on science education.
I’m a little more optimistic than Comic Book Guy! Penn Dixie will be back, and we’ll be here to help you unwind, get some fresh air, and break a few rocks. Please stay safe and healthy.
Dr. Phil Stokes, Executive Director
P.S. Our office is closed, so please email our exoskeleton crew if you need something (form at bottom of page).
Updated Booking Information
Parties wishing birthdays, private tours, and group tours are welcome to book dates after June 1. Obviously, we will make sure that health officials have declared public gatherings to be safe for your tour to proceed. Otherwise, we are happy to reschedule or refund your deposit. Since our office is closed, please contact using email or via the form on our Contact Us page.
Updated Member Policies
Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Nature Reserve is closed to the public, but per longstanding policy members may visit during daylight hours on any day of the week. Need some stress relief? The rocks are still here and are waiting for you to smash them with a hammer! Trilobites and other fossils look forward to being discovered, I believe, so you are really doing them a service in this difficult time.
When you are on site, please respect social distancing and keep at least 6 feet (2 meters) from other members. Generally, the 54-acre park only has one or two other members on site at a given time, so this shouldn’t be a problem. A face mask to protect others from airborne droplets is not a bad idea, either. If you are a Penn Dixie member and would like to visit, please email me for the full policy and access information.
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