Erie County Parklands 4


(This column was first published in the July 14, 2003 issue of The Buffalo News.)


Continuing my personal survey of Erie County parklands, I devoted a pleasant early July morning to visiting a half dozen in the eastern Buffalo suburbs. This was not nearly enough time to do justice to these parks in several it would take a full day simply to walk all their trails but over the years I had already spent much time in several of them.


Early morning is the best time to spend in our parks. You find yourself virtually alone except for a few joggers, the usual lawn geese and parking lot gulls, and after awhile the arriving park workers. Best of all, you beat the heat.


My tour began in Cheektowaga's Stiglmeier Park. I thought I knew this park well as I have often stopped there to eat my lunch between volunteer assignments and I have walked the Hummingbird Hollow nature trails many times. Apparently, however, my earlier explorations didn't take me far enough as I found an additional quarter mile of attractive paths to visit on this morning.


Adjacent to Stiglmeier is the state-managed Dr. Victor Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve. This park is unlike any other in the area. Visits are carefully managed - you must meet their schedule or make special arrangements making it, just as the family wished, a much wilder area than its more public neighbor. Although I recognize this park as one of the finest in our region, I was disturbed by the state's treatment of the former naturalist, Jeff Liddle, and I continue to question the judgment of those who erected the ugly garage in the park. Having said that, I find myself very favorably impressed by the new naturalist, Kristen Buechi. This is an important and unique regional park and you should make every effort to visit it.


To the east in Lancaster is Como Lake Park. This county reserve stretches for over a mile along the south side of Cayuga Creek and, when plans are brought to fruition, it will extend still further. Although its 59 shelters and its playgrounds and athletic fields identify this as a place for family activities and group picnics, there are many quiet areas attractive to naturalists. Near the park entrance I watched a woodchuck munch grass on the sledding hill and a great blue heron rose from the creek bank between the two park islands. My approach that frightened away this bird may have saved the bullfrog strumming from nearby reeds.


I followed the 3/4 mile nature trail that led through the Johnson Wood Grove. In its pine grove wood thrushes compared organ recitals while an excited ovenbird called for his teacher. Nearer the creek a catbird jeered at me and a yellowthroat insisted its "witchity, witchity". Trailside multiflora roses were in full bloom as were tiny bluets. In hardwood areas there are extensive fern gardens, but in a few places some ugly knotweed has invaded.


My return home took me through three more parks, two of them in Lancaster: Westwood and Walden Pond. While these are generally small open parks, each has its attractions. Westwood has a lovely pine grove with a brick walkway that memorializes those "who lost lives and suffered in the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001." And several youngsters were eagerly fishing in Walden Pond.


Finally I ended the morning walking the trails of the state's Tillman Road Wildlife Management Area in Clarence. By then, however, the temperature had risen to near 90 and the woods and thickets, except for the monotonous call of a red-eyed vireo, were silent. Only the painted turtles were out sunning themselves.-- Gerry Rising