The Parklands of Erie County: 2


(This column was first published in the June 9, 2003 issue of The Buffalo News.)


This is the second of my reports on the parklands of Erie County.


Akron Falls County Park


It is little wonder that the Erie, Huron, Neutral-Wenro and later Seneca Indians chose this lovely glen for their campgrounds. Although the park is scarcely a quarter-mile from the bustling Village of Akron, on my three recent visits it could best be described as serene and peaceful. With schools still in session I had even the athletic fields and picnic grounds largely to myself.


This park is already familiar to me. I have attended faculty picnics here; while I was still hiking, I occasionally followed the paths set out by the Foothills Trail Club along this section of Murder Creek; I used my GPS device to locate one of the hidden caches here; and I've recorded the park's breeding birds as part of the state atlas project. The park lies within one of my census blocks.


Yet on each visit I find new areas and am even more impressed. On my most recent tour I followed the nature trails through the forested lands separated from the rest of the park by the athletic fields. There in the park's southernmost section I found trilliums still in bloom and red-eyed vireos calling from the hardwoods.


Like so many of our attractive natural settings, this park was largely constructed during the Depression era by public works projects. I'm old enough to recall how those projects were decried by opponents as "make-work give-aways." So much for thinking ahead.


Murder Creek is, of course, the centerpiece of the park. It flows over the falls for which the park is named and forms midway a lovely pond, providing one of those rare outdoor skating rinks in winter. (I suspect that too many hockey-playing youngsters today think that ice rinks are only indoor features.)


That creek's name derives from a possibly apocryphal tale about a young Indian girl named Ah-weh-hah or Wild Rose who was coveted by a local settler. His advances spurned, the settler kidnapped the maiden, in the process killing her father, a tribal chief. Escaping from the settler, Wild Rose obtained temporary protection from a sawmill operator at the falls. A stalwart brave who had been courting her arrived to return her to her tribe just when the settler reappeared to attack him. In the ensuing battle both men were killed leaving the young woman devastated.


That legend may not meet the standards of Washington Irving, but it must surely serve well over an evening campfire.


The northern section of the park - the lower creekside areas and the lands above the glen - is largely given over to picnic areas, but there is a rich mixture of beautiful trees, enough to make this an arboretum: the many pines and spruces joined by beeches, sycamores and other hardwoods.


Any visit to this park is well rewarded.


Beeman Creek Park


This is one of the five undeveloped county parks. Northwest of the intersection of Lapp and Salt Roads in Clarence, it is a largely forested area with two creeks running through it. It is posted and as yet has no trails.


I walked down Parker Road between the park and a privately owned woodlot, for much of the way wading through inches deep water. It was well worth it: veeries and wood thrushes sang nearby and a rare breeder, a northern water-thrush, called from a swampy thicket.


Although many trees are second-growth, some older oaks and maples attained trunk thicknesses of several feet.


Protecting this land represents another good investment, this one for future generations to enjoy.-- Gerry Rising

Note: There are two excellent websites about Erie County parklands. One is the county site and the other is Buffalo's Olmsted Parks site.