By Alicia Dziak
So many people in Western New York and beyond consider Allegany State Park (ASP) a second home. During the summer months, its hundreds of cabins and campsites are overflowing with happy campers enjoying the swimming, fishing, hiking trails and all else the park has to offer. Come winter, visitors enjoy the snowy wonderland for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and other winter sports. No matter what time of year you like to visit the park, it’s beautiful, and to maintain this beauty requires a lot of hard work.
To help with some of the improvement projects throughout the park, Friends of Allegany State Park (FOASP) was born, the brainchild of Paul Crawford, a marketer by profession, whose love of the park shines through on the various ASP Facebook pages he moderates.
“I started going to the park with my family in about 1962, the youngest of seven packing into the family station wagon and heading down from Buffalo, where I was born and raised,” Crawford said. “I then started going as a Boy Scout, where we winter camped on Anderson Trail when there was no electric and [cabins] were heated with wood stoves. I continued to go with friends in my youth and started bringing my own children there since they were months old. I started photographing the park roughly five years ago, posting photos on the unofficial ASP Facebook page about four years ago and then on the official page when it started in 2011.”
Crawford later took over moderating the park’s unofficial Facebook page, when its previous moderator moved out of state.
“As a marketer by profession, I have grown the page by 5,200 likes in the past year, posting my photos, running contests and sharing relevant content from other pages. It’s a passion of mine, as is the park,” stated Crawford.
Through the Facebook page, Crawford met many other park lovers, like himself, who wanted to help the park, and the next logical step was to create FOASP.
He explained, “I was inspired by the volunteerism of Rick Feuz, a park volunteer and advocate and recent past president of the ASP Historical Society, John Michael Milbrandt and Bob Schmid, park historian. John Michael Milbrandt had seen the volunteerism of Rick Feuz in a Facebook article I had written. He asked his company, Sherwin Williams, for time and materials, and with the help of managers from area Sherwin-Williams stores, painted over 50 cabins on the Quaker side in the past year or so.”
With a dedicated group of volunteers in place, FOASP had a very successful first year.
“In 2013, FOASP donated close to 600 man hours to the park and collected $1,500 in donations,” Crawford said.
Completed projects include 12 cabins painted, 40 picnic benches assembled, numerous bags of garbage picked up and many other miscellaneous jobs.
In addition, a FOASP board of directors has recently been formed with Crawford as president. Other members include Kevin Gallineau, vice president; Luanne Wanamaker, treasurer; Yvonne Abwender, secretary; and Rick Feuz, John Luby, Mike Weaver and Sandy Boczar.
“These folks have been outstanding in helping the movement and have all attended a majority of the functions,” Crawford said. “They, too, are park lovers who want to make a difference.”
With a board in place, the group is now applying for non-profit status, as donations are starting to roll in.
“With non-profit status, we will be able to apply for state grants that will really get some things done in the park,” Crawford explained.
Although the group does not work on projects this time of year, you can help by making a donation to: Friends of Allegany State Park, 2373 ASP Route 1, Suite 3, Salamanca, NY 14779.
Come spring, mark your calendar for the first Saturday in May to join FOASP’s volunteer efforts.
“FOASP is open to anyone who would like to help,” Crawford said. “We meet the first Saturday of the month from May to October, and places and chores are announced on the ‘unofficial’ ASP Facebook page with 26,000 likes, and also on the FOASP Facebook page. Kids are more than welcome and often come with their parents.”
For more information, like them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FriendsOfAlleganyStatePark.
“We had an outstanding first year and are looking to growing in 2014!” Crawford said.