Location: Thayer Hill Road,
Hours: May-November, 8:30am – dusk
Facilities: Picnic tables, grills, composting toilets, water
Trails: 1 mile hillside loop, light blue blazes
Notable: spectacular view of Lake Erie, interpretive trail guide available at sign-in stations
Dogs: pets are to be on leash, BYO cleanup bags
The Full Scoop:
The John Luensman Overview Park is located on Thayer Hill Road. Chautauqua County provides the following (not very readable) map: Park Map. The Topozone map can be found here – coordinates are 42° 20.65’N, 79° 27.53’W (NAD27). There are several geocaches in the vicinity.
This park will remind you a lot of the Tom Erlandson Overview Park. Many design elements are duplicated here. Or actually, perhaps the design elements from here are duplicated there, since I think this park predates the other. Whatever.
The approach to this park from the Hartfield side of the hill takes you through Amish farm country. You will pass many quilt shops, a lumber yard, and farm stands selling fresh produce and eggs.
The park offers a picnic pavilion, uncovered picnic areas with grills, two viewing platforms, composting toilets, and potable water. One of the viewing platforms features a map which helps you understand what you are seeing.
There are, reportedly, three educational pamphlets that have been written about this site. On the day I visited, only one was available in the Visitor Register stations. I could not find the pamphlets for stations 1 and 2 – Birds of Prey – The Spring Migration and The Geology from the Luensman Overivew Park.
Pamphlets were available for the 1-mile nature trail that starts at station 3 and continues through to station 24. The pamphlet written by Dr. Thomas Erlandson (yes the same one for whom the other Overview Park is named) is very educational and makes the walk quite interesting.
You will learn about edge, or ecotone communities, glacial erratics, timber stand improvement, and much more.
The trail is well-groomed and maintained and features boardwalks and foot bridges where the ground is wet, as well as benches, should you need a rest. There is a creek at the bottom of your descent.
This trail is not as steep as the trail at the Erlandson Overview Park. It is also marked with light blue blazes. The Station signs are brown with yellow numbers – a typical park style sign.
This park is provided to visitors free of charge. It takes money to maintain such beautiful facilities. Be respectful of that and take care of the park as you would your own property. There is a donation box, if you should feel so inclined.
Visitor Registers are found at many parks. Always sign them. The agencies that provide the facilities often need to show funders that the parks are well-used in order to continue to receive funding.
The official website states that the hours for Luensman Overview Park are 8:30am – 8:30pm Memorial Day through mid-November. The sign at the entrance has different hours: 8:30am – dusk May 12 – Nov 1.
The following text is taken from the Natural History Trail Guide: Luensman Overview Park written by Dr. Thomas Erlandson, retired professor of Jamestown Community College.
John R. Luensman served as Chautauqua County’s Director of Planning and Development for 30 years from 1960 to 1990. Early in his tenur John worked with th ePark Study Committee to recommend a park system to meet the future needs of Chautauqua County. The recommendation of the Park Study Committee, with technical support provided by John in the Planning Department, included th edevelopment of the County’s overland and waterway trails as well as the acquisition and development of two overview parks. In recognition of John’s role in developing the County’s park system, the Chautauqua County Legislature passed a resolution on Novemner 20, 1996, naming the overview park on Thayer Road in the Town of Portland Luensman Overview Park.
A second man is honored at the park for his contributions. A plaque placed on a glacial boulder reads as follows:
This boulder, a legacy of past glaciers, was chosen to honor Curtis H. Bauer, Forester, Conservationalist, Educator, Friend of the Land. His values, dedication, guidance, and labors were instrumental in the establishment and development of the Chautauqua County Parks System, his legacy for the people to enjoy. Placed by the County Parks Commission and Deparment of Public Works. 1997.