Buckhorn Island State Park at the northernmost tip of Grand Island is a place that is always in the state of becoming. It was once part of a forest that bordered the Niagara River, a forest that included such wetlands as swamps and marshes. It is now considered to be an Important Bird Area, and it is a breeding ground for various migratory species.
At one point, there was a hotel where there is now a park. I’ve seen photographs of the hotel.
But, unlike the Bedell House at the southern end of the island, there isn’t much documentation of the Buckhorn Hotel, other than that photograph. I don’t have a copy of it so I can’t share it here, but it looks as if it was taken late in the nineteenth century. You can tell by the clothing and hats that people wore.
In the 1930s, there was a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in Buckhorn Island State Park. It was located just south of the Grand Island bridge connecting Grand Island to Niagara Falls on the southern bank of Burnt Ship Creek.
This was one of nine CCC camps in Western New York. The Civilian Conservation Corps Camps were military style facilities that were designed to give young men employment during the height of the Great Depression.
The camp in Buckhorn consisted of a cook shack, dining hall, supply building, doctor’s office, and infirmary. Also on site were company headquarters, garage, recreation hall and canteen, latrine, and a boiler room, with wash rooms and shower stalls.
Many of the men who lived and worked at this camp were veterans from the eastern part of New York State. The camp’s chaplain was Father William Martin of Saint Stephen Church until he was transferred in 1943.
Work that the men did included building the Charlotte Sidway School, which is now an elementary school that houses universal pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and first grade. They also weeded the nursery at Buckhorn.
They developed picnic grounds at Buckhorn, and they constructed bridle paths. They also were offered vocational classes, as well as first aid. During their free time, they participated in sports and they held dances, which were open to residents of Grand Island.
All of that is gone now. The buildings were removed. Apparently, from I’ve heard, some of the buildings from the Civilian Conservation Corps have been located elsewhere on Grand Island. It is possible that work will be done to restore those buildings, as they are integral parts of local history.
The state bought the land that is now Buckhorn Island State Park in 1952. The buildings and other construction was removed.
Much of the wetlands were restored, making Buckhorn Island State Park a gem along the Niagara River, since much of the native habitat is lost to us forever.
Currently, Buckhorn Island State Park is undergoing a major renovation program. The goal is to remove invasive plants and replace them with species native to Western New York. That is currently a work in progress. Another issue that Buckhorn faces is the deaths of its many ash trees.
It is estimated that approximately forty percent of Grand Island’s trees are ash trees.
Buckhorn Island State Park, along with the island is full of dead and dying ash tree.
The neighborhoods and the parks need a massive reforestation project, designed to replace the dead trees.
In this blog post, you will see images from Buckhorn Island State Park at various times of the years.