Weekly Feature



2014-08-21 / Front Page

Travel Channel to highlight eternal flame in new series

by CATHERINE COLMERAUER
Editor


Audio engineer Ben Jura, left, and videographer Sal Malguarnera ready their equipment for the Travel Channel’s visit to the eternal flame on Friday. 
Photo by John NormilePurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Audio engineer Ben Jura, left, and videographer Sal Malguarnera ready their equipment for the Travel Channel’s visit to the eternal flame on Friday. Photo by John NormilePurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Chestnut Ridge Park recently received national attention, as members of the Travel Channel were in town on Friday to explore the park’s natural wonder known as the eternal flame.

The television channel’s footage will be used in an upcoming yet-to-be-named series, according to Glenn Kirschbaum, a director with Indigo Films production company. The Travel Channel has given the green light for 15 one-hour episodes, which will premiere on the station sometime early next year.

“We’re all very excited. We’ve been humping over the country doing cool sites and things that people don’t know anything about,” said Kirschbaum during Friday’s shoot at Chestnut Ridge Park. “Ba- sically, we are sort of lifting the veil to show people really interesting things in the country.”

Kirschbaum said the television show’s staff uncovered the story of the eternal flame and encouraged the crew to make it part of the series.

“We are very excited about coming and seeing the eternal flame. We know nothing about it, so we are going to find out,” Kirschbaum said.

The eternal flame is located behind a waterfall at Chestnut Ridge Park and appears to be caused by a natural gas seep from shale. A couple of years ago, the eternal flame piqued the curiosity of professors at Indiana University, who traveled to Orchard Park to study the natural wonder. In their findings, the researchers noted that the leak that causes the eternal flame seems to possess the highest concentration of combined ethane and propane of any natural gas seep in the world.

Yet Troy Schinzel, commissioner of the Erie County Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry, said that as much as the geologists discovered, there is much that remains a mystery.

“There is still unknown qualities to the eternal flame,” said Schinzel. The study revealed that the shale that causes the gas seep might be younger than was originally thought and might be creating the gas through a different process than what was speculated.

“It sounds like there is a little bit of a mystery, and it is always fun when there is a mystery involved,” Kirschbaum said.

Tory Belleci, one of the main hosts of the new Travel Channel show, as well as a star of the Discovery Channel show “MythBusters,” said he was excited to explore the enigma of the eternal flame.

“When they first told me about this flame in this waterfall, my mind was just trying to understand it,” said Belleci, who immediately began reading up on the site.

“It’s pretty weird. It’s a weird phenomenon in nature,” he said.

Though they were unsure of what they would find at the end of their hike, the members of the Travel Channel said they were enjoying their time in Orchard Park.

“Orchard Park is gorgeous,” said Kirschbaum, who noted that the Erie County officials and Parks Department staff were a pleasure to work with and extremely cooperative.

“It just has been a real positive experience. We’re thrilled to be here,” he said.

Though Schinzel said he is pleased about the attention that the eternal flame is receiving, he does not want Orchard Park to become a tourist trap.

“What makes that area so special is that it’s very serene,” he said. “You walk back on a trail … and there is this flame in the middle of nowhere.”

He added that it is the Park Department’s job to maintain the character and exclusivity of Chestnut Ridge.

“It’s always a delicate balance,” said Schinzel. He promised there will not be brochures and concrete walkways leading to the flame under his watch.

Still, the county was pleased with the recognition.

“We’ve known for many years the wonder that is Chestnut Ridge Park — this true community asset,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, who accompanied the Travel Channel to the eternal flame. “Now the rest of the world will know about it. The eternal flame truly is a natural wonder.”

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