Saniewski family donates 30 trees to Stiglmeier Park

Len Saniewski's grandchildren, Jake, Nate, Camden, Alex, and Izzy lay a memorial brick in front a tree donated in their grandfather's memory on July 1, 2017. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)
Len Saniewski's grandchildren, Jake, Nate, Camden, Alex, and Izzy lay a memorial brick in front a tree donated in their grandfather's memory on July 1, 2017. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. – Family members of the late Len Saniewski gathered in Stiglmeier Park Saturday to remember the family’s patriarch by dedicating trees planted in his honor.

For Cynthia Baer, it started out as a small way to remember her dad, Len Saniewski.  Growing up, Ms. Baer spent a lot of time in the then Losson Park because of her dad.  Nature walks, church picnics, and baseball every Tuesday with the Resurrection Holy Name Society.

“Tuesday would always be the day that we would get to go to the park whether or not we were watching the game or not.  We would explore all the woods and everything that was here, so it became a big part of my life just through my dad,” said Ms. Baer.

Ms. Baer, now a resident of Rhinecliff, New York, is no stranger to the devastating effects of the Emerald Ash Borer.  Many dead trees line the New York State Thruway near her home, “It doesn’t even look like summer anymore in some areas.  It looks like winter because all of the trees that are gone,” added Ms. Baer.

Like the trees in the Hudson Valley, the Ash Borer infested many trees in Stiglmeier Park.  She recently received a call from her mom, Jean Saniewski.

“She told me all of the trees along Como Park Boulevard had been cut down by (Stiglmeier Park) so that’s what gave me the idea that maybe we could do something to offset the impact,” continued Ms. Baer.

Mr. Saniewski passed away suddenly five years ago from a heart infection.  This past January she wrote a letter to her family asking for everyone to make a monetary donation in memory of his name to the Cheektowaga Tree Replacement Program.

“I asked if everybody – even the smallest donation of a quarter from Izzy one of the grandchildren – just everybody give something so that it would make a bigger impact to all of us,” said Ms. Baer.

What started out as a goal of $1,800 to plant 12 trees quickly turned into the town’s biggest donation received to date – her family was able to raise $2,250.  A matching donation from brother-in-law Mike Salvadore who owns CATCO, Inc brought the donation to over $4,500.

The town can plant around 30 new trees as a result of the gift.

Len Saniewski's grandchildren, Jake, Nate, Camden, Alex, and Izzy lay a memorial brick in front a tree donated in their grandfather's memory on July 1, 2017. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)
Len Saniewski’s grandchildren, Jake, Nate, Camden, Alex, and Izzy lay a memorial brick in front a tree donated in their grandfather’s memory on July 1, 2017. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)

Family members, friends, and town officials gathered Saturday at the Como Park Boulevard entrance to Stiglmeier Park to see the first phase of tree planting and to hold a ceremonial bricklaying.  The second phase of tree planting will occur in the fall.

“You can give to the Arbor Foundation, and you can give to the trees in Costa Rica, but we have a problem right in our own yard, and it’s a great way to remember someone by buying a tree,” said Ms. Baer.

Other donations from the Tree Replacement Program have also started to bear fruit.

“It’s a great start.  I myself have donated a tree in memory of my daughter who just passed away, and I think the more people see this happening in our town, the more people will decide to donate a tree.  It’s a great way to help the community and remember your loved ones,” said Supervisor Diane Benczkowski.

For more information about making a donation to the program, you can call the Facilities Department at (716) 656-2280.