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Get down and muddy at the Rec Center!

16 Sep

I wasn’t planning to post a blog today, but when I was out on my bike ride this morning, I came across something fun.

My ride took me on the Chiyoda Trail which wraps around the back of the Webster Recreation Center. I saw that preparations were being made for this Saturday’s first-ever Mud Run. This is going to be a non-competitive, untimed, half-mile slog through water and mud, with some challenging obstacles. What’s really neat about it is that kids and their adults can do it together. It’s only $5 per person, and there’ll be giveaways and snacks afterwards.

The Rec has long had an obstyacle/fitness course in their back yard, but this morning I saw that they were making it even more challenging. There were hay bales set up (for clambering over I suspect), some rope contraption I don’t remember seeing before, and two big mud pits.

As I came around the trail bend heading back towards the Rec Center, I saw the master architects behind it all: Jeff Janto and Josh Barnard, two Rec Center staff members who were dropping even more hay bales and wetting down the expansive field, trying to make even more mud and wetness before Saturday.

It was neat to see the preparations, but it saddened me a little; I’m not going to be in town, so I can’t crawl through the mud myself. It looks like SO MUCH FUN, and a great family opportunity to get down and dirty together. (Unfortunately, it looks like the weather will be nice. Can you IMAGINE how much MORE fun it would be in the rain?)

The Mud Run will be held this Saturday Sept. 18 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Webster Recreation Center, 1350 Chiyoda Dr. Registrations are still being taken. Sign up on the Parks and Rec website (program #301202).

Click here to see a little teaser video giving you an idea of what the Rec has planned, and check out the photos I took this morning:

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A Webster bike route mystery solved (mostly)

10 Sep

Sometimes the most interesting journey can begin with a simple question.

The journey I want to tell you about today began for me in July, when I’d stopped by the Webster Museum. I noticed a blue and yellow metal sign in the exhibit right inside the front door, next to the tall antique bike. It read, “James W. Carnevale Bike Route.”

I asked one of the Museum Ladies, “Who’s James W. Carnevale?” She thought for a second, then responded, “I don’t know.”

Thus began my quest. I knew I had to find out who Carnevale was, why a bike route was named after him, and where that bike route was. It’s been a journey that’s stretched over two months and involved almost a dozen other inquisitve folks who helped me along the way by poking into genealogical records, tracking down old newspapers, and asking around to those who might have known Carnevale.

I started by doing some quick internet research on my own, with little success. At the suggestion of the Museum Ladies, I reached out to the Webster Public Library to see if their research professionals could do a little digging.

With help from the NYS Historic Newspaper Database, in no time, my friends over there — Laureen Anthony-Palmer, Doreen Dailey and Sarah Hodges — had unlocked all sorts of articles and photos. We learned that:

  • Carnevale was born in April 30, 1930 and died suddenly in Syracuse on Jan. 22, 1977
  • he graduated in 1950 from RIT
  • he enlisted in the Army in 1951, served in Korea as an intelligence officer, and was awarded the bronze star for his work in photography
  • he worked as an engineer at Kodak
  • he served as Webster’s Recreation Commissioner and was an active member of the town’s Democratic Party
  • he’s buried at Webster Union Cemetery

Perhaps the most interesting photo we found was one from Nov. 5, 1986, which appears to show the Town of Webster presenting Carnevale’s widow Nancy with the exact Bike Route sign which now hangs in the museum. The caption mentions that the new signs would replace ones on the “established bike route.”

Another clue.

The pieces were coming together, but we still didn’t know where the bike route was and why it was dedicated to James Carnevale. But I was undaunted.

Knowing that Carnevale was a former Recreation Commissioner, I got Webster Recreation Director Chris Bilow on the case. Chris checked with some of the Rec Center’s long-time employees to see if they knew anything about Carnevale, with no luck. BUT, in another email that same day, Chris sent two photos someone had snapped of a James W. Carnevale Bike Route sign which is still standing at the corner of Drumm and Herman roads.

That was exciting news. But the trail seemed to have reached a dead end there (no pun intended).

Until just two weeks ago, when I received an email from museum volunteer and research goddess Cherie Wood, who had the bright idea to consult Esther Dunn’s Webster Through the Years, a comprehensive guide to Webster’s history. Sure enough, Cherie found a huge piece to the puzzle.

The article Cherie found explained that the bike route was originally established in 1968 to, in part, “create additional interest in healthy recreational activity that can be practiced as a family group.” The 14.5-mile route took riders (in general) west from Holt Rd. to Klem, then along Bay, Volk and Dewitt roads, ending at Inspiration Point. There riders would turn around and wind their way back. (An image of the whole article with route details follows this blog.)

While there’s nothing in the article about this being that “established route” referenced in the caption above, I think we can assume so. And perhaps we can also infer that naming the bike route after Carnevale was a way to honor his service to Webster as Recreation Commissioner.

So that’s where we are right now. It’s been fun unraveling the mystery, and I deeply appreciate the help that I got from the library, the museum, and the Rec Center folks in tracking down all these details. I feel like I’ve gotten to know James pretty well; I even visited his grave at Webster Union Cemetery to pay my respects and thank him for his service to the town. (And for providing such a fun mystery.)

If made it all the way to the end of this very long blog, thank you for your interest. And if you happen to know anyone who knows anything about James Carnevale, or if you see one of the signs in your travels (rumor has it there might be one at Klem and Five Mile Line), please snap a photo!

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A few notes of interest:

Letterboxing: the perfect family hobby

14 Jul
The “Webster Borwnies” letterbox, with a stamp pad, hand-carved rubber stamp and logbook.

If you’ve never heard of letterboxing, please read on. I’d love to introduce you to this very family-friendly hobby which, when my children were young, was one of our favorite things to do.

In a nutshell, letterboxing is kind of like a treasure hunt. Each “letterbox” (usually some sort of Tupperware or other plastic container) contains a rubber stamp, stamp pad and a logbook. There are literally thousands of these hidden all over the country — and world. Searchers go online for clues, then follow the clues to track down the letterbox. (The site I like best is

Once the box is retrieved, each searcher uses their own personal rubber stamp to stamp the box’s logbook (adding the date and a personal note if they’d like). Then they take the box’s stamp and imprint that into their personal logbook to keep track of their progress.

Most of the clues are simply step-by-step directions and are pretty easy to follow. Occasionally a clue might also include locating a particular compass direction, or require counting off a number of paces, both of which kids love to do. If you really get into it, you can come up with your own trail names (I’m Mama Rose) and carve your own rubber stamps (which is actually pretty easy).

Here’s a good example.

Tuesday morning I went to, searched for letterboxes in Webster and downloaded some simple directions to an easy-to-find letterbox hidden in Webster Park. It’s called “Webster Brownies,” and was likely hidden by a Webster Brownie troop.

Here are what the directions look like:

The directions were spot-on, and I had no trouble finding the box tucked inside the tree. (However, I was a little concerned about the folks siting on a nearby bench wondering why I was climbing up into the tree.) I didn’t have my personal stamp with me, so I just signed my name and the date into the logbook, put everything back in the waterproof baggies and dropped the box back where I found it.

Sometimes you might come across an extra surprise on your adventure, like I did Tuesday. Tucked inside the tree along with the letterbox was a large stone with the instructions to “paint a square and re-hide it.” I don’t know if the same Brownie troop created this little treat as well, or someone else added it to the site. In any case, I have to find my watercolors and get to work.

There are so many things to love about letterboxing. Unlike geocaching, you don’t need a GPS unit or your phone to track down coordinates. It costs basically nothing (aside from buying a stamp and a logbook), and it incorporates puzzle-solving, following directions, and even a little orienteering, all while discovering new parks and trails and getting some exercise.

Try it yourself; you might become addicted like my family did. All you need when you first get started are some clues, a small personal notebook to record your finds, and a stamp pad in case the box doesn’t have one. You don’t even need to have a rubber stamp of your own. You can just sign your names and date into the logbook. But check in your kids’ rooms, because they probably have some rubber stamps in there somewhere.

You can download clues from Search for Webster and Penfield if you’d like to start local. Even that limited a search will show dozens in our area. But think big! Are you going to the Thousand Islands this summer with the kids? Download some clues and do some exploring up there. Just make sure you have a dedicated family letterboxing logbook, because you’ll be filling it up. (We also liked to record each find with a photo which we pasted into our logbook.)

Here are some more photos from the day:

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I’ve often wondered about those cars…

29 Jun

A week or so ago, I got the latest edition of my Friends of Webster Trails newsletter. It immediately drew me in, because splashed across the top of the first page was a photo of an old, beat-up, rusting car.

I knew immediately where the photo had been taken. The car is actually one of several similarly (or worse) rusted-out cars that hikers will see when they walk the trails at Four Mile Creek Preserve, at the corner of Lake Rd. and Phillips.

I’ve been on those trails several times, and have come to love the old cars. Rather than seeing them as eyesores, their history always intrigued me. I wondered how they could show up in the middle of the woods like that. This one in particular is pock-marked with what look like bullet holes. I liked to imagine it was a get-away car belonging to some gangster who drove into the woods to escape, but who met with an unfortunate end. (The actual story of how the bullet holes got there is probably a lot less nefarious.)

So I was delighted to see the newsletter article explaining where these cars came from. It actually makes a lot more sense than the gangster story.

Trail steward Dennis Kuhn was able to track down some information. He wrote,

The cars were driven onto the property from Lake Road across a bridge that accessed farmland where the cars were last driven. It seems that some local youths decided to create a racetrack somewhat off the beaten path to have some fun cavorting around the open fields that were available at the time. If you traverse the land as it is now, you’ll have to use your imagination to see a relatively treeless landscape that existed sometime in the nineteen fifties or early sixties.

Nevertheless, the youths of the day had a ton of fun going around in circles until they ran out of gas or had a flat tire or wrecked the transmission.

If anyone knows more about the history of these old cars, the Friends would love to hear from you.

I was also excited to read in the newsletter that the Friends are developing a new trail at the State Rd. Nature Preserve, an area of undeveloped land on State Rd. just west of Salt. I haven’t seen a whole lot of details about this yet, but as I learn more about it I’ll let you know.

It continues to amaze me the great job the Friends of Webster Trails are doing maintaining our current trails and developing new ones. These dedicated volunteers bring hours of enjoyment to our community and deserve our continued support.

If you’re not familiar with all of the terrific trails we have here in Webster, check out the Friends of Webster Trails website, then get out there and start exploring. If you ARE already a fan of our trails, please consider dropping $10 for a single membership or $15 for a family. Your donation will go a long way to helping these fine folks help US enjoy our town’s natural beauty for years to come.

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Hickory Bark Trail platform back in action

7 Jun

Have you discovered Hickory Bark Woods yet?

This is a beautiful little natural area just steps from the Webster Public Library’s front doors, adjacent to the Ridge Park playing fields behind Town Hall. The stand of woods measures about 10 acres, and there’s a very nice, short trail that leads into the center of the woods, ending at a spacious deck.

At least it did for a while.

Last November, a large tree fell onto the platform, pretty much destroying it. But just about a month ago, the Friends of Webster Trails put a team together and repaired the platform. Many thanks go out to Eric Turberg, Steve Turberg, Bud Gearhart, Dennis Kuhn, Craig Hurlbut and John Boettcher.

These before-and-after photos came from the Town of Webster weekly newsletter:

I was especially happy to see that repairs had been made to the platform because I know the Webster Public Library likes to use the trail and deck for some of their programs.

I also remember when, last July, Doreen and Laureen from the library dedicated one of their Let’s Explore Webster videos to Hickory Bark Trail. You can see that video here, and click here if you want to read my blog about the trail (and the fairy houses I found there).

By the way, Doreen and Laureen have recently published their latest Let’s Explore Webster video, this one about three of Webster’s historic properties. Click below to see that video, then visit the Webster Library’s YouTube channel to see many more videos from this excellent series. (And all sorts of other neat stuff!!)

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Webster community mailbag

31 May

When it comes to blog ideas, I’ve found it’s either feast or famine. As it turns out today, it’s definitely a feast. I’ve got so many things to tell you about I need to throw them all into one big mailbag so they don’t get too stale.

So here we go….

Image courtesy Town of Webster website

The Town of Webster is hosting a series of open houses for anyone interested in finding out more about plans for redeveloping Sandbar Park and upcoming REDI projects (Resiliency & Economic Development Initiative) which will include, among other projects, raising a portion of Lake Rd.

There’s going to be a lot of information presented at these meetings, so if you’d like to read up on all the projects in advance, click here for a good overview of what will be happening and why.

The open houses will be held:

  • Wednesday June 2, 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Webster Recreation Center, 1350 Chiyoda Drive
  • Tuesday June 8, 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Rec Center
  • Thursday June 10, 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Rec Center
  • Saturday June 12 at the Joe Obbie’s Farmer’s Market, in the Kohl’s Plaza

The Webster Museum needs your help

Webster Museum volunteers have scoured available online resources for information about Asa Bass and his family. Museum staff members think this family may have been the first black residents of what is now Webster.

Asa (1792-1872) was born in Vermont, was a pioneer who came here in 1812 and bought at different times three different properties between the northern sections of what are now Phillips Road and Route 250.  Among his neighbors were the Foster and Wright families.

Asa and his wife Matilda Fuller Bass (1790-1866) had at least two children, Jane Bass Gould (1820-1891) and Chester Bass (1724-1873). Jane married Charles Gould and they had three children:  Anna, Nelson and Elijah. Chester married Sarah Gracen and they had at least one child, Francis Bass Vond. One of Asia’s nephews, Asa Boyd, lived with the family for many years.

The museum has many facts, but few stories about Asa and his farm and family lives. They’re hoping to hear from relatives of people who may have been friends or neighbors as well as descendants of this family.

Any information, even the smallest clue, would be greatly appreciated. Please send to Kathy at

Yee haw! Challenge your kids at this rodeo!

The Monroe County Office of Traffic Safety will host a Bicycle Skills Rodeo on Saturday June 5 at the Webster Recreation Center, 1350 Chiyoda Dr.

Children will learn, practice and demonstrate their bicycle handling skills. Make sure to bring your bicycle and helmet to participate in this family-friendly event for kids age 4-14. (There will be a few helmets available if you need one.)

The event is free, but registration is required. Visit the Webster Parks and Recreation website and look for program #201000. Four half-hour time slots are available beginning at 10 a.m.

Bri-Pen Senior Rides hosts Open House via Zoom

This note from some of our neighbors to the south.

Bri-Pen Senior Rides is hosting an open house via Zoom for those who might like more information about driving for the service.

Bri-Pen Senior Rides is a volunteer-based service that provides rides to adults 65+ in the Penfield and Brighton areas who do not have transportation to medical or other essential appointments. They are urgently seeking volunteers to drive or offer their assistance in dispatching rides to clients.    

The group will hold an Open House via Zoom on Thursday, June 10 at 4 p.m. to answer questions about how to get involved, as well as to share the history of the program.

Drivers are trained by Lifespan, and qualified drivers are offered additional umbrella insurance to drive for the service.

A link to the Zoom meeting can be found on the Penfield Recreation website calendar, or call 340-8655 for details. 

Help sustain our Webster forests

The Friends of Webster Trails is looking for a few good volunteers to help with a pressing problem.

Our treed and open space areas in Webster offer peaceful places to enjoy and explore, places that Friends of Webster Trails helps preserve for future generations. The future of our trees is threatened, however. Emerald Ash Borer. Wooly Adelgid. Oak Wilt. Beech Tree Canker. Those are just some of the challenges our green infrastructure faces.

Friends of Webster Trails is in the early stages of identifying how to address the problem, and they’re putting together a committee to work on it over the next several months.The goal is to enter 2022 with concrete plans to put into action. 

If you’re interested in joining their efforts, contact Norma Platt at

Would you like to make some beautiful music?

The Webster-based Rochester Rhapsody chorus, an organization of female a cappella singers specializing in the barbershop harmony style, is excited to report they’ll be returning to live rehearsals, which were on hold for a long time thanks to COVID.

To kick off the summer, they’ll be spreading their love for music with a grand reopening for women of all ages.

Female guests can attend Rochester Rhapsody chorus’ “A Cappella Lives!” open rehearsal on June 14 from 7 to 8:15 p.m. at Temple Beth El, 139 S. Winton Road, Rochester.

Women of all ages can enjoy an evening of music in a relaxed environment and participate in a cappella 4-part harmony, vocal skill building, singing a variety of music, and meeting with other women singers. Information about the chorus’ audition process will also be provided.

This is a great opportunity for women who love to sing but have never tried a cappella.

Registration is requested. To do so, and find out more details, visit the group’s Facebook page, email or call 585-721-8369.

What’s a mailbag without news from the library?

There’s SO MUCH COOL STUFF happening at the Webster Publc Library. Here are just a few snippets just for your kids:

  • This year’s Summer Reading Kickoff takes place at the North Ponds Park pavilion on Thursday June 24 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

There will be games and crafts, raffle baskets and book drawings, a scavenger hunt, and Star Wars costume characters! No registration is required. The event will include a 20-minute storytime with Jason at 6:15, so bring your blankets!

  • Your kids’ next craft challenge: create an animal habitat!

For the Animal Habitat Challenge, kids will use supplies provided, and/or anything else you have at home. The library will provide the animal, some fun crafting supplies and a box for your diorama.

Pick up your kits from the library between June 7 and 11 and submit a photo of the completed habitat by June 18. Voting will take place on Facebook from June 21 to 27. Click here to register.

  • Step into the magical world of Candy Land! Between June 14 and June 30, families and small groups will be able to register for time slots to make their way through a live-action version of this popular family game. Venture through the enchanted storytime room full of gumdrops, candy canes, lollipops, and so much more. Do you have what it takes to make it to King Candy’s castle first? Click here to register.

The Webster Public Library is located at 980 Ridge Rd., at the back of the plaza. Make sure to check out their website for all of the great youth and adult programs they’ve put together. I’ve just scratched the surface.

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New bench at Milton Case Park honors beloved WCSD staff member

24 Apr
The new bench is located behind Spry Middle School at the entrance to Milton Case Park.

Nature lovers who enjoy walking the trails of Milton Case Park in the Village of Webster have a brand new place to sit and relax.

A new bench has just been installed at the northernmost entrance to the park, behind Spry Middle School, thanks to the efforts of Girl Scout Troop 60672.

The girls built the bench as part of their Silver Award Project. It wasn’t their original idea to build a bench, but when the pandemic hit they came up with a more appropriate project, and a perfect way to honor the memory of a very special WCSD staff member, Tammy Serio-Miller.

Serio-Miller was a nurse in the Webster Central School District for many years, including at Spry, until she passed away last October. A Webster resident, she enjoyed walking in the woods behind Spry. So the girls built the bench especially in her memory, but also as a way to honor all of the nurses and health care workers who have worked so hard during the pandemic.

The bench was dedicated in a short ceremony last week. WROC-TV Channel 8 was there; click here to see their story.

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More thoughts from another trail

21 Apr

Last Sunday was a perfect day for a walk. It was spectacularly sunny (for a change), not too cold and not too warm. My husband and I took advantage of the unusually pleasant spring day to visit a Webster park he had never been to, and which I haven’t hiked in about five years: Four Mile Creek Preserve.

This is a beautiful natural area situated at the corner of Phillips Rd. and Lake Rd., at the very north end of town. It’s got a spacious parking lot and about 3 miles of trails. And you don’t have to travel very far down those trails before all the traffic sounds from Lake Rd. fade away and all you can hear are bird calls and the burbling waters of Salt Creek and Four Mile Creek. Plus, there are a few unexpected surprises along the trail which I won’t divulge.

It’s a great place to enjoy nature and reflect on the beauty of our town, and especially of our trails.

And that thought brought me to where it often does when I’m hiking our local trails: appreciating the awesome job the Friends of Webster Trails does. If it were not for the tireless dedication of this all-volunteer organization, we would not have been hiking Four Mile Creek that day.

I remembered back a while ago when, in my monthly Friends newsletter, I read that membership in the organization numbered about 200.

I thought it was a misprint, and they meant to write 2000. Because I KNOW that more than 200 people a year use Webster’s awesome trails — trails that are so awesome BECAUSE of the Friends, who spend hours every summer to create new trails, improve existing trails, remove invasive vegetation, install signage, and build bridges.

And it’s not just about the trails they’ve created and keep cleared. I mean, have you ever checked out one of the maps posted on a trail to see where you are? You can thank the Friends for that. Ever glanced at a blaze to make sure you’re still on track? Thank the Friends. Ever relaxed on a bench or paused at an overlook platform or walked across a bridge? The Friends work with local Boy Scouts to build these structures.

The grunt work is completed by volunteers, but a lot of the improvements cost money. So far the Friends have accomplished amazing things with the limited funds they have. Just think about what they could do if 100 or 200 more families would throw them $10 or $15 to become members. (P.S. that’s all it costs.)

If you’re not familiar with all of the terrific trails we have here in Webster, check out the Friends of Webster Trails website, then get out there and start exploring. If you ARE already a fan of our trails, please consider dropping $10 for a single membership or $15 for a family. Your donation will go a long way toward helping these fine folks help US enjoy our town’s natural beauty for years to come.

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Girl Scouts help spread the word about Webster’s trails

5 Apr
The builders: Martine Broikou, Leah Hurlbut and Ellie Gramowski

Just in time for warmer weather and the promise of more hikers and bikers hitting the trails, several new Friends of Webster Trails brochure boxes have been installed for nature lovers to utilize.

At the request of the Friends, Webster Girl Scout Troop 60844 built six new boxes to replace some that have been vandalized and add a few in new locations. The girls spent several hours a few weekends ago constructing the boxes, then installed four of them last Saturday morning, with help from Friends Trails Committee Chair Craig Hurlbut and Trail Steward Bud Gearhart.

The new boxes contain Friends of Webster Trails brochures, which include a detailed trail map, plus information about the Friends and how to become a member. They’ve been installed at the Hojack Trail trailhead on Van Alstyne Rd., Gosnell Big Woods Preserve, Vosburg Hollow Nature Trail and on the Chiyoda Trail.

I love the idea of having these brochures so easily available to everyone who frequents our trails. The all-volunteer Friends of Webster Trails does an amazing job developing and maintaining our town’s impressive trail system, which now includes almost 30 distinct trails stretching through more than 20 miles of natural beauty. The new brochure boxes will, hopefully, let more people learn about and appreciate these very hard-working volunteers.

If you come across one of these new boxes in your travels, make sure to grab a brochure, tear off the membership card and send it in to show your thanks and support. It only costs $10/year for one person, and just $15 per family. Or better yet, click here to go to the Friends of Webster Trails website to learn more about them and sign up as a member.

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