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Some time ago, I attended the public presentation of the master plan for maintaining and extending Erie County's parks. I came away deeply impressed by the wide range of public facilities provided to us here by our county as well as our state, city, towns and villages. The quality of these parklands reinforces my long-held belief that we are indeed quite fortunate to live here.

My enthusiasm led me to plan visits to each of our parks, including those still only proposed, in order to report to you on my experiences. To do this, I have received special support from Erie County Parks Commissioner Lawrence Jasinski. Most important, he gave me a letter of authority to use my scooter (with care) on some of the restricted trails.

One eye-catching aspect of the master plan is the interconnection between these parklands. For example, town trails connect city, county and state parks. This suggests good cooperation between the various park agencies, and my first outing underscored this.

The Clarence and Newstead trails: a delightful start to my project. You can walk or bike more than 10 miles along mostly asphalt-covered trails through suburban and rural areas. I met joggers, bike riders and women pushing prams. All were enthusiastic about the trails.

I began my ride at Transit Road north of Clarence Center Road and across from Jurek Lumber, but the first mile is along a narrow dirt track. Most visitors will want to use the trail where it is paved beginning at Bridlewood Drive South. (From Transit take Clarence Center Road to Meadow Lake Drive, turn left and an immediate right on Bridlewood.) If you seek parking, however, I suggest you continue east on Clarence Center Road to where it takes a left-right jog. There is a small parking area at that access point.

The first few miles are through residential areas with back yards on each side, but even there I found this first outing exhilarating. The deep green trailside grass was festooned with bright dandelion doubloons. Just returned yellow warblers added more color and also contributed their welcoming chip-chip-chippa-chippa-chip songs.

Hardly more than ten feet from the trail a woodchuck munched on grass, paying me no heed. He was already so fat that, despite our terrible weather this spring, he must have been stuffing himself since Groundhog Day.

After the trail passes through Clarence Center and continues into Newstead, the country quickly takes over, and I found fruit trees and shadbush in full bloom, with tiny wild strawberry blossoms adding their white to the ground as well. The narrow lane led through brush-lined lanes, mixed pine and hardwood woodlots and open meadowlands. I began to see mandrake and buttercups and, in swampy areas, marsh marigolds.

And more birds: among them whistling cardinals and orioles, chipping sparrows and meowing catbirds. A meadowlark called from a field, and house wrens and chickadees chattered from the hedgerows. A red-tailed hawk screamed from a dead tree. He flew away as I approached but decided I needed more encouragement to move on. Returning to his perch, he continued screeching even as I obeyed his instructions.

Finally, the trail led to downtown Akron. From there a planned road and rail corridor route will form a loop through Akron Falls Park and back to the main trail.

On my return trip, I stopped to read the dedication of a major trail section to Richard Anastasi, then followed the south fork through Clarence (where it detours along Main Street) and back to Transit.

I salute Clarence and Newstead for constructing and maintaining these superb trails.


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