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Landslide closes section of bike path

Young trees, pieces of asphalt and a big mound of dirt have fallen into Tonawanda Creek because of a landslide that sheared away part of the Amherst bike path, forcing closure of a section across from the Amherst Museum.

"It's horrible," said Cathy Dugan, 55, a regular walker on the path during the warmer months.

She and her sister got their first glimpse Tuesday of what has been a troubling pattern of landslides along the creek over the years. The latest one, near New Road, covers more than 20 yards along the edge of the path, and that section is now marked by wooden barricades and yellow caution tape.

It has been that way since last week when a resident called after watching the landslide.

Last spring, the Morphy family lost its home a little farther east on Tonawanda Creek Road after a landslide dumped a huge chunk of their front and side yards into the creek bed, exposing the home's foundation.

Five years ago, a section of the bike path in Clarence collapsed.

"Tonawanda Creek has been collapsing," said Robert N. Anderson, Amherst highway superintendent. "This is just the latest collapse."

Anderson said he has noticed that shoreline collapses tend to happen, as this one did, within two weeks of a "flood elevation event." This is when creek water level rises above 12 feet, as it did by about a foot in the middle of the month, he said.

He recently sent a letter to the Town Board, asking members to weigh in on whether the damaged portion of the path should be rerouted through a nearby wooded area.

"We're still going to look at options that we have as a town," he said.

The collapse is at a reasonable spot, toward the end of the Amherst section of the path, he said. There is a small parking pullout nearby, which makes it easy for bicyclists to stop before the closed section.

"It's kind of convenient from our perspective," Anderson said.

Barbara Gibbs, 56, who was walking with her sister Tuesday, said she is worried that the existing barricades won't do much to protect children interested in exploring the erosion.

"I wouldn't worry for an adult, but a child on their bike or something, getting curious," she said, pointing to the barricade. "This isn't going to stop a child."

News Staff Reporter Michelle Kearns contributed to this report.

e-mail: stan@buffnews.com

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