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John McCune and his wife, Cindy, in the universal blind at Spicer Creek.
Will Elliott/Pavilion

Grand Island gets a special new blind


Department of Environmental Conservation officials and Okawanda Wildlife Foundation members gathered at 11 a. m. Thursday to dedicate a universal-access blind in the Spicer Creek Wildlife Management Area on Grand Island.

Brisk, cold northeasterly breezes could not chill the warm reception on East River Road, a formal dedication of the Spicer Creek Wildlife Management Area. It’s a site designed for waterfowl hunters, especially impaired/ disabled persons wanting to hunt or just get a look at the east-river waters of the Niagara River.

The site was partially funded with donations from OWF in memory of John Daniels, an avid waterfowl hunter who served in many volunteer conservationist efforts. Daniels died two years ago, and his wife, Christine, and friends and co-volunteers in many Okawanda projects chose to have this site dedicated to his memory.

Speakers stepped to a dais in front of a plaque citing Daniels’ dedication to waterfowl conservation efforts. DEC Region 9 Director Abby Snyder welcomed all, pointing to the grounds and building work operations personnel have completed. Snyder also noted Daniels’ decades of work on Niagara River bird-banding projects.

Dr. Richard Thoma, Okawanda president and longtime friend of John Daniels, said, “I’m so proud of John and pleased to be able to donate funds for all the building here.”

Daniels’ wife, Christine, chose not to speak at length. She looked around at all of John’s friends and co-workers and said, “John would be so so pleased to see all this.”

During the ceremony, John McCune and his wife Cindy occupied the blind and watched each presentation. After the ceremony, John, in a wheelchair, said his veteran disabilities led to wheelchair use in 2004, “but didn’t curb my love for hunting.”

“I’ve been hunting since I was a little kid and still get out as much as I can,” he said of the blind he has already scoped out for north-to-south incoming shots. McCune, a North Collins resident, has taken up gunsmith work, “but I’ll take time to come up here for duck-hunting season.”

Ken Roblee, one of the DEC coordinators on this project, said, “This WMA will serve as a Universal-Access site, meaning all—impaired, disabled, and able—persons can come and enjoy this area.” Roblee added the Spicer Creek access will be part of the Beaver Island State Park hunting-blind site drawings and that first preference for use of this blind will go to hunters with special needs.

A fine-gravel road, wide ramp to the deck, and a protected blind allows wheelchair-bound and walking disabled persons easy access to the deck and blind/shelter.

Space in the parking area is limited and vehicles with special side-loading features need room for movement. All interested in checking out this 34-acre, class-one, DEC wetland site can look for the DEC sign on East River Road just north of Holiday Inn.

For details on Spicer Creek as part of the Beaver Island blind drawings, call 773-3271.