#1 Habitat for Wildlife (LT1)
This area was graded and seeded in 2018 with a mix of warm season grasses and wildflowers recommended by the NRCS. These plants reduce erosion on the slopes, which improves water quality of the lake. Wildflowers such as Blackeyed Susans, Partridge Pea, Purple Coneflower, and Oxeye Sunflower provide food and shelter for pollinators and other insects. Pollinators improve agriculture by pollinating food plants and allowing them to make many of the fruits and vegetables we enjoy. You can help these important tiny animals by reporting your insect sightings to wildlife scientists. Check out and join Bumble Bee Watch, the Lost Ladybug Project, Firefly Watch, and more!
#2 Wildlife Conservation (LT2)
These nest boxes are specially designed for Eastern Bluebirds. Eastern Bluebirds are native to the eastern United States, and their diet consists of insects and their larvae, which provides valuable pest control. Because bluebirds nest in hollow trees and they are territorial, their populations have been in decline due to competition for nest sites, pressure from invasive starlings and house sparrows, and habitat loss. Thanks to the development of bluebird trails and nest boxes since the 1970’s, Bluebirds are no longer threatened. To provide nesting sites and keep populations healthy, this effort is continued by volunteers who monitor bluebird nest boxes— 5 nest boxes here at DeWitt Recreation Area and 10 boxes at the Genesee County Park & Forest. Nest box monitoring data from the parks is given to NestWatch, the nationwide monitoring program created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. You can join in protecting wild bird populations and have fun outdoors!
#3 Native vs Invasive Species (LT3)
Many plant and animal species have migrated and made a new home for themselves in New York State, and some of them at the DeWitt Recreation Area. It is natural for plants and animals to migrate to new areas. However, when a living thing becomes harmful to the environment, economy, or health of other living things in the ecosystem, it is considered to be an invasive species. Many invasive species have no natural predators or pathogens in their new home, and as a result their population explodes. The Common Reed, or Phragmities australis that you see dominating this beach of DeWitt Lake, is an invasive species now common to wetland areas of New York State. Phragmites is troublesome because it crowds out the native cattails and other vegetation that our wild animals such as geese, ducks and muskrats use for food and shelter. It grows in dense stands and changes the flow of water through marshes and topography. Invasive species such as these are found in common areas of cities, towns, suburbs and rural areas. They may be found in your own back yard and right under your nose. Many ongoing efforts are in action to stop the spread and protect habitats for wildlife. You can help by identifying invasive species that live in your neighborhood and reporting them to help scientists catalogue, map, and respond to invasive species throughout New York State.
#4 DeWitt Lake (LT4)
The water source of DeWitt Lake is the glacial-outwash aquifer underneath the Batavia area and Townawanda Creek. An aquifer is a natural underground layer of rock or gravel, sand, or silt that can contain or transmit groundwater. Aquifers feed surface waters for cities, towns and homes. The water level of this lake varies with the amount of water in the aquifer, which is recharged during periods of rain and snow melt, and is slowly emptied in periods of drought. The lake level typically rises during the spring season and falls during autumn, sometimes dramatically. Because groundwater and surface waters are connected, it is up to all of us to protect and care for our water sources and homes for animals such as lakes, ponds and rivers. You can do easy things every day to keep your groundwater clean and safe.
#5 Watershed Stewardship(LT5)
This small wetland is flooded when the lake level is high. Water in this wetland is connected to the larger wetland on the east side of the Lakeside trail. These wetlands are part of the Black Creek Watershed. A watershed is an area of land on which all of the water flows into the same river or lake. For example, the Black Creek Watershed gets its name because all of the water in or on that area of land drains into Black Creek. Black Creek flows northward through Genesee County through Bergen Swamp into the Genesee River, which empties into Lake Ontario. Ultimately this water is connected to the Atlantic Ocean through the St. Lawrence River. From the groundwater in DeWitt Lake to the ocean currents, water is all connected. Protecting your water at home keeps our rivers, lakes and oceans clean! Find your watershed and get easy everyday tips to keep your water clean, such as proper disposal of medications.
#6 Wetlands (LT6)
This six acre wetland on the east side of the Lakeside trail has witnessed development of the surrounding area. It is part of the Black Creek Watershed. Park volunteers and staff removed trash and debris from this wetland to improve the habitat and make way for the construction of the Ellicott Trail. The wetland is home to frogs, turtles, muskrats, geese, ducks, great blue heron and occasionally beaver. As part of the watershed, wetlands like these provide vital functions to keep our waters safe and healthy. Wetlands help purify water, moderate weather events, mitigate flooding and erosion, and filter impurities from surface waters. These benefits have economic value as large sums of money are saved each year in water pollution abatement, flood control and repair costs. You can protect wetlands each day by doing simple things around your home and yard.
#7 Succession (LT7)
Nature is always slowly changing over time, and so are the habitats at DeWitt Recreation Area. The tree species on this peninsula tell us the story of the habitat and the growing conditions found here. The cottonwood, aspen, willow, and sycamore trees are called “pioneer” trees because they thrive in wide open spaces with nutrient-poor soils. These trees were first to colonize the sandy, wet shores of DeWitt Lake after quarry operations ended in the late 1970’s. As they grew their fallen leaves decomposed and enriched the soil and their branches shaded the soil underneath. This created growing conditions favorable for the maple, cherry, ash and oak that live here now. As the plant community changes and species diversity increases, a larger number of different animals find food and shelter in the area. See how small changes in the types of plants in your yard can create an improved habitat for wild animals, and find out why a “messy” yard is better!
#8 Native Grasses (LT8)
This large area of tall native grasses was planted in 2015. Native grasses are grasses that have lived in the area since before human settlement. They are well adapted to the soils and climate unique to the area. Because of this they are more resilient to the effects of drought and other local climate challenges, and they thrive without fertilizer or pesticides. In addition to being low-maintenance, they grow in clumps and provide food and great shelter for wildlife including wild turkey, rabbits, small mammals and many pollinators Native grasses use their long roots to reach more water and nutrients in the soil, which decreases soil compaction, increases water infiltration, and reduces soil erosion. Plantings of native grasses, shrubs and trees were completed at DeWitt Recreation Area in 2003, 2010, 2015 and 2018 to restore habitat and prevent erosion. Species included Little Bluestem, Sideoats Grama, Chewings Fescue, Annual Ryegrass, Canada Wildrye, Deertongue, Purpletop, and more. Learn more about planting native season grasses for low-maintenance landscaping and more!
#9 Wildlife Watching (LT9)
The island that you see before you was once digging site for machinery during operations of the sand and gravel quarry. Now the island is observed from afar while a small forest community grows and is visited by wildlife. The island is only accessible by boat except during drought years when the water level is low and a sandbar is exposed, connecting it with the beach on the south side of the lake. During those times, an abandoned cement mixing barrel can be seen protruding above the surface of the water just off the edge of the island. Animals leave tracks in the mud at the island edge and fledgling waterfowl leave the safety of their nests to start life on the lake. This lookout point is the perfect place to hear the calls of songbirds and waterfowl, see fish jumping, and enjoy the beauty of the sky at sunset. Wintertime is perfect for observing waterfowl that have migrated south for the season. You can help wildlife populations by reporting your sightings of wild birds, amphibians, mammals and more.
DeWitt Lake is home to a variety of warm water fish speciessuch as black crappie, bluegills, pumpkinseeds, largemouth bass, and northern pike. Areas with submerged structure are good places to find these species. Northern pike are often caught in slightly deeper water along weed edges. Brown bullhead, common carp, rock bass, white sucker, sunfish, and perch also live here, and the lake is stocked by the NYSDEC with two-year-old (12-15 inches) brown trout each spring. They share this lake habitat with other wildlife including ducks, geese, raccoons and turtles to name a few. Sadly, many critters of the lake get caught up in fishing line, hooks, and sinkers left behind by anglers. They are found injured, weak, and many times dead because they could not eat or move properly to find food and escape predators. Please help keep the lake safe for all animals and beautiful for the community. Bring a trash bag with you and carry out all of your trash and lost fishing gear, and pick up something that someone else left behind. The lakeshore would be sparkling clean and safe home for animals if everyone picked up more trash than they brought in! Following best fishing practices will make this lake a beautiful place for everyone!
GCPF Wildlife Trail - (Self-Guided Map - pdf 685mb)
#1 Pond Life Signs
Amphibians help us more than most people recognize, keeping wild insect populations from reaching hazardous levels and possessing pharmacological significance. Epibatidine, a chemical extracted from the skin of Epipedobates tricolor, a South American frog, blocks pain 200 times more effectively than morphine! Sadly, these valuable animals are dwindling in number and disappearing across the globe. It’s not all doom and gloom though, as there are a great number of actions you can take to help them! While the amphibians will appreciate your benevolence, you will appreciate the amount of fun you have helping them!
#2 Wetland Wildlife
Wetland habitats perform vital ecological functions, providing a clear example of how seemingly isolated ecosystems are interconnected. Serving as the permanent and temporary estate for numerous species, wetlands help purify water, moderate weather events, mitigate flooding and coastal erosion, and accomplish lots of other important tasks. Separate studies have investigated the economic benefits of healthy wetlands, each concluding that millions of dollars are saved annually in water pollution abatement and flood control and repair costs. Wetlands are disappearing across the country, as are their beneficial impacts. Fortunately, you can become a wetland protector by making simple changes to your lifestyle.
#3 Bird Feeding Station
Have you ever wanted to participate in real scientific research? Check out Project FeederWatch!! Operated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada, Project FeederWatch is a winter-long survey of birds that visit feeders at backyards, nature centers, community areas, and other locations throughout North America. Everyone is able to participate and the data collected by volunteers is used by experts to better understand population ecology, risk factors, and conservation measures to protect over 100 species of birds! Release your inner scientist and help oodles of birds by joining FeederWatch today!
#4 Invasive vs. Naturalized
Several plant and animal species have made a new home for themselves within the borders of New York State, some even within the confines of the Genesee County Park. Many of these species have become invasive, wreaking havoc on their new environments while enjoying the lack of natural predators and pathogens that keep them in check in their native territories. The harmful ecological and economic impacts of invasive species like the Emerald Ash Borer and Garlic Mustard are felt throughout New York and many ongoing efforts are in action to combat them. New York iMapInvasives is a wonderful online tool that helps scientists catalogue, map, and respond to invasive species throughout New York State. Use New York iMapInvasives and find out how you can contribute to relieving the burden of New York’s invasive species!
#5 Deer Signs
Deer have become increasingly familiar animals as their populations in this area have grown in recent years. As deer adapt to human environments, it is important to know how our interactions with them may impact their survival. Feeding deer during the winter months can be fatal to them. Deer are particularly adapted to consuming and digesting certain types of food at different times of the year. During winter, the deer’s digestive system is home to microbes that assist in the breaking down of woody materials. This allows the deer to survive on the small amounts of tough vegetation available in winter. When deer find and eat large quantities of low-fiber carbohydrates, such as corn, which is not part of their natural diet during wintertime, they lack the microorganisms in their stomach to digest the food. The stomach environment adjusts to this new food, and the changes in the stomach lead to a rush of lactic acid. This results in a destructively low pH, which results in dehydration and death of the deer. Because feeding during the winter results in death, along with spread of disease among deer and many other risks of injury, New York State has issued a deer feeding ban. As we discover more about the complex lives of animals like deer, we will better understand how to protect and conserve our wildlife resources.
#6 Nature’s Recycling Crew
Decomposers are a necessary part of any ecosystem, breaking down dead/decaying organic matter and waste products into their elemental parts, making them once again available for other organisms to use. Without decomposers, plants wouldn’t be able to take up essential nutrients, causing them and the life forms dependent on them (including us) to die. In forests, decomposers like bacteria and fungi also create new homes for animals by hollowing out dead fallen trees in which plenty of species take up residence. A super fun activity for parents to do with their kids is to investigate a rotten log that you find here on the trail or the forest floor. Have fun exploring, you never know what, or who you will find!
#7 Forest Clearing
Clearings in a forest and the formation of snags offer new opportunities for plants and animals. Natural clearings (or glades) allow short vegetation, like grasses or ferns, to absorb increased amounts of sunlight and the amplified growth of these plants provides plentiful sums of food for numerous animals. Snags serve as food, shelters, nurseries, and storage units for many animals, illustrating how the death of one organism often grants life to many others. Unfortunately, trees are often cut down before becoming a snag, removing what could have been the future home of hundreds of animals. There are ways to identify what trees may become future snags, and you can even make your own snags! Try finding a snag in your neighborhood or a local park or try creating a snag in your backyard and observing how different animals use it.
#8 Animal Shelters
Animals find shelter in almost every place imaginable, ideally with quick access to food and water. Some animals relocate to find new shelter with the change of the seasons. White-tailed deer travel as far as 12 miles in the winter to reach ranges with continuous tree cover overhead, reduced wind chill, and easier movement in the snow. Proper shelter is a necessity for animals and access to shelter can be highly competitive in the wild. You can make your own backyard into a more suitable environment for animals by constructing different kinds of shelters! Not only will more animals have a place to live, but your yard will look better than ever with all of its new occupants!
#9 Seed Dispersal
Plants have evolved ingenious ways to transport their seeds to new areas. Some plants take advantage of wind or water to transport their seeds, and there are even a select few who have evolved “exploding” fruit to launch their seeds! Many plants rely on animals to accomplish seed dispersal, using various methods to catch a ride on or in the animal. Transporting seeds away from the parent plant has its advantages, preventing competition between the parent plant and its offspring and allowing seeds to reach places with conditions more suitable for germination and growth. Discover the surprising relationships between plants and animals and see nature’s ingenuity with new eyes!
#10 Habitat Management
The habitat of an animal is the place where it has access to food, water, shelter, and adequate amounts of space. Different animals are better adapted to live in specific habitats than others. What may be a suitable habitat for one species may be entirely unlivable for another. Habitats can be managed by stopping or reversing the ecological process of succession. Find out how a “messy” yard can provide a great home for wild animals, and try creating a habitat for native species in your own backyard! Witness how small changes like the types of plants you grow in your yard can influence the types of animals that are found there.
GCPF Forestry Trail - Under Construction
GCPF General Conservation Trail - Under Construction
GCPF Plantation Trail - Under Construction