Under the guidance of Sodus Town Supervisor, Steve Leroy, the former Girl Scout Camp on Lake Ontario has come to life for camping and nature walks. PHOTO AND ARTICLE WRITTEN BY: Jordan Burnett (TIMES OF WAYNE COUNTY)
Assistant to the Supervisor
Book Keeper, Accountant
[Camp Beechwood… A Sodus Success Story]-TIMES OF WAYNE COUNTY
PHOTO AND ARTICLE WRITTEN BY: JORDAN BURNETT
[Camp Beechwood… A Sodus Success Story]
Under the guidance of Sodus Town Supervisor, Steve Leroy, the former Girl Scout Camp on Lake Ontario has come to life for camping and nature walks.
From the road, this relatively unknown 250-acre park – tucked away near the lakeshore in Sodus – doesn’t look like it has much to offer. But the park’s natural environment lends itself to a number of year-round activities like hiking, photography, picnicking, camping, fishing, cross-country skiing and more. And all of it is free.
A lot has changed at Beechwood State Park. Ten years ago, the park sat idle, being overtaken by nature.
Originally, Beechwood was owned by the Girl Scouts until, according to Sodus Town Supervisor Steve LeRoy, 16 or 17 years ago the state took control of it after the Girl Scouts ran into financial difficulties.
LeRoy said that the state didn’t have the funds available to maintain the park. He said they hired a caretaker who would stay in the home at the park once or twice a week, but that he basically only mowed the main road leading into the park.
“He didn’t do a whole lot, but he wasn’t paid to do a whole lot, so it became pretty much a jungle,” LeRoy said. “It was in a complete state of disrepair.”
Then, about seven or eight years ago, LeRoy said that he went to his board and proposed that the town take control of the park and revitalize it. They initially opposed the idea, saying that it would be too expensive.
LeRoy talked to people at the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and they eventually agreed on a 15-year contract that would transfer management rights to the Town of Sodus.
“Almost immediately, we had members of the community who went down and volunteered their time,” LeRoy said. “I was down there weekend after weekend with my own tractor, working.”
Since taking ownership, LeRoy said that they’ve made countless improvements with little tax money. The Rotary sponsored the lower-east campsite, where they’ve completed a number of projects, and the Lions Club sponsored the mess hall and installed a brand-new roof.
They’ve also hired a caretaker to maintain the grounds. The caretaker doesn’t receive a salary, but for his services he’s allowed to live in the house on the park’s property. The tax dollars that are spent on the park, which LeRoy said amount to $3,000 or $4,000 per year, are used to maintain the caretaker’s house and portable toilets.
The park has received small grants in the past, but, last week the town received a $76,000 grant from the NYS Office of Parks and Recreation for Beechwood. LeRoy said that money will be used to run power and water from the road to the mess hall and beyond, as well as to install lights and surveillance cameras for security.
LeRoy plans to continue upgrading the park and he said that the town is in the early stages of working on a proposal, along with the school and the Genesee Regional Off Road Cyclists, to develop a bicycle track on a portion of the park that is away from the main area.
“This could be a nice collaborative effort among the town, the school and this organization to make that happen,” LeRoy said.
Beechwood State Park is free for anyone to visit. Camping is free, but no camper/trailers or motorized vehicles of any kind are allowed. If someone who is handicapped wants to visit the park, prior arrangements can be made with the caretaker to be driven in on his ATV.
Though the park has had a number of upgrades, LeRoy doesn’t want to develop it too much so that it loses its natural feel.
“I don’t want to say it’s totally wild, but it’s as natural as possible – where we can still allow people in, and we want to keep it that way,” LeRoy said.
PHOTO AND WRITTEN BY: Jordan Burnett (TIMES OF WAYNE COUNTY)
Sodus Town Supervisor
Wayne County Chairman
14-16 Mill. St.
Sodus, NY 14551