Nature Watch: Byway offers lovely scenery, history of Southtowns - The Buffalo News

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Nature Watch: Byway offers lovely scenery, history of Southtowns

The Western New York Southtowns Scenic Byway passes through five towns and three villages in southern Erie County. From the junction of Routes 219 and 20A in Orchard Park, it runs east to East Aurora. There it turns south on Mill Road and 240 through the towns of Aurora, Colden and Concord to Springville. Then it takes the Springville-Boston Road or 219 north back to Orchard Park.

When I learned about the byway, I thought I could easily drive that 50 miles in an hour or so. That was a serious error on my part. Of course I could speed around that loop in an hour, but doing so I would make the kind of mistake that many of us make when traveling. We focus on “getting there.” Thus, we drive at or above the speed limit, we seek to achieve the maximum distance in whatever time we have allotted and, whenever possible, we choose divided highways.

Fortunately, I didn’t do that this time and I learned a very important lesson: Taking time and following a carefully prepared itinerary transforms a worthless episode into a wonderful participatory visit to the current life and past history of a region.

My teacher was Bob Lennartz, the retired banker who played the central role in developing this byway. He drove me around the route, surprising me by stopping at many of its features to park, get out of the car and walk a few hundred yards. Our tour took us about four hours and by the time we had completed the route, I realized that we could have spent twice that time and enjoyed every minute.

What did we do at those stops? Here are a few examples:

• Before we left Orchard Park, we paused briefly at the Quaker Meeting House to learn from the first of the byway’s 14 interpretive signs how David Eddy’s family formed the original congregation after his arrival in 1804.

• At Griffin’s Mills, we visited the Presbyterian Church where troops were quartered in the War of 1812 and an 1846 resolution was adopted that named slavery “an intolerable disgrace, a horrible curse on our nation.” In the hamlet cemetery we found the grave of a man who lived through the Revolutionary War and the formation of this country.

• We learned how the Village of Colden was originally Buffum Mills, named for its first settler, a Revolutionary War veteran. We walked across the bridge to see the lovely slate-sided falls in Cazenovia Creek.

• In Boston, the sign told us the story of the murder there of John Love.

• We visited war memorials to the soldiers and sailors who served this country in several towns, the most attractive the Concord site in Sprague Brook Park where a lovely vista provides a quiet setting.

• From Chestnut Ridge Park and several other stops we could see Buffalo and even Niagara Falls in the distance.

As is so often the case, the development of community action is the result of the efforts of a committed individual. Following up on a suggestion by his wife, Mary, Bob learned that the state supported most byway projects. He argued for and gained New York State Department of Transportation authorization for his route in 2008 and then took his idea to local municipalities to obtain the necessary matching funds to construct the interpretive signs.

“Lots of presentations,” he told me, “but nearly universal support.”

Bob has also developed much supportive material that you should access before you visit this byway. You can download maps and a descriptive brochure from, and you can explore further information at

With those materials in hand, you can enjoy many hours along this interesting route. At this time of year, the trip is further enhanced by the lovely fall colors.


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