So you want to get away – far from traffic and the hustle and bustle.
There are public places for that in the Buffalo Niagara region, with trails and trees and waterfalls and wetlands.
But a mapping analysis reveals you can’t put yourself even one mile away from a paved road anywhere in Erie or Niagara counties.
“The results were surprising,” said Lisa Matthies-Wiza, a GIS planner for Erie County, who did the analysis. “The public land we found farthest from roads were not the large expanses of undeveloped open space and forests as I’d imagined, but small pockets of land dotted around the more rural parts of our community.”
So where to go?
Come take a look at 11 places that emerged as the farthest spots to get away. “I like knowing these places exist when I need a little getaway,” Matthies-Wiza said. “And because they are fewer and farther between than I’d realized before, it’s made me aware of the importance of protecting them.”
--Jillian Deutsch and Patrick Lakamp/News Staff Reporters
Eleven spots likely to appeal to solitary types
Portions of these public places are at least a half-mile from the nearest road – the only such public spots in the Buffalo Niagara region.
1. Hunter’s Creek County Park, Wales. Nearly nine-tenths of a mile from the nearest road.
2. Nature View Park, Amherst. Three-quarters of a mile from the nearest road. [gallery]
3. County Forest, Sardinia. Nearly three-quarters of a mile from the nearest road.
4. Hartland Swamp State Wetlands, Hartland. Seven-tenths of a mile from the nearest road.
5. Buckhorn Island State Park, Grand Island. Two-thirds of a mile from the nearest road. [gallery]
6. Boston Forest County Park, Boston. Half-mile from the nearest road.
7. Zoar Valley, Collins. Half-mile from the nearest road. [gallery]
8. Sprague Brook County Park, Sardinia. Half-mile from the nearest road. [gallery]
9. Franklin Gulf County Park, North Collins. Half-mile from the nearest road.
10. Beeman Creek Park Clarence, Half-mile from the nearest road.
11. Tonawanda State Wildlife Management Area, Royalton. Half-mile from the nearest road.
Nature View Park, Amherst
The 1,254-acre park in north Amherst includes forests, wetlands and meadows. It has walking trails. One portion of the park is three-quarters of a mile from the nearest road.
The Town of Amherst owns the park, and the Western New York Land Conservancy holds a conservation easement on the land. It’s the town’s largest undeveloped green space and conservancy’s largest nature preserve.
“I’m from Buffalo, and it can be easy to forget or not see how important our region is,” said Jajean Rose-Burney of the Western New York Land Conservancy.
The park’s existence was not just happenstance. One plan called for locating an incinerator on the land in the 1970s. A golf course was proposed in the 1990s. Each time, neighbors fought the proposals. After 10 years of efforts, the Western New York Land Conservancy designated the land as protected property in 2006.
Most enter off Tonawanda Creek Road, where a small cleared path guides through green foliage and a cluster of mosquitoes. Others drive through a neighborhood off Sweet Home Road.
Gallery: Nature View Park
Zoar Valley, canyon of gray stone
Deep gorges make the 3,014-acre Zoar Valley Multiple Use Area a geologic and ecological marvel. The canyon’s walls are rigidly layered – revealing hundreds of years of erosion by wind and water.
The place, located along the border of Erie and Cattaraugus counties, is peaceful, with the sound of wind rustling through the trees and shallow water bubbling over rocks in the creek.
Jessica Slomiany, a mother of two from Fredonia, has been coming here since her mother first brought her. Now, she comes to get away from the Buffalo heat. Her daughter Mira, 5, loves to splash in the stream with her water shoes and skip rocks.
“I love it here, because me and Max get to splash here,” she said while pointing to her 1-year-old brother Max.
– Cresonia Hsieh
Gallery: Zoar Valley Multiple Use Area
Sprague Brook Park, a hidden treasure
The 974-acre Erie County park in Glenwood is mostly known for fishing, hiking and camping. A northeastern portion of the park is about a half-mile from the nearest road.
The county bills the park as an outstanding place to see wildflowers, migratory birds, and wildlife. There are hiking trails to catch a glimpse of porcupines, foxes, white tail deer and raccoons.
Kari King began camping at Sprague Brook as a toddler with her family. More than 25 years later, she still joins her parents there, but now with her three sons.
Not much has changed. It’s always been a quiet area with friendly faces and plenty of shade. Every night, they have a bonfire.
“That’s the big draw,” said Ellen Beyor, King’s mother. “Kids want to play with sticks and fire, make hotdogs, s’mores. What’s camping without s’mores?”
Jordan Grabar since in his 11 years as an Erie County sheriff’s deputy he received maybe four or five calls from the park. It’s quiet – and not very “mayhemy,” he said.
Gallery: Sprague Brook Park
Hunter's Creek: "Well-known secret"
Hunter’s Creek County Park in Wales attracts those who like tough hikes and rough bike rides. The middle of the park is nearly nine-tenths of a mile from the nearest road – the farthest from a road of any public area in Erie County.
The 750-acre wooded area – formally named Sgt. Mark Rademacher Park – is largely undeveloped with plenty of roots and sticks and the occasional fallen tree interrupting the paths. The only sign of the park along Centerline Road is a gravel road with a small parking lot.
Along Hunter’s Creek Road, you’ll only see two skinny posts with symbols for biking and horseback riding.
Jeff Bettinger, a Buffalo teacher, comes for the trails. He says the park is a big reason he and his wife and their 4-year-old twins moved from the city to East Aurora. They’ve strapped child bike seats to their bikes and gone riding so the kids get a feel for it.
Bettinger comes three or four times a week to ride his new Surly Ice Cream Truck bike – with tires fat enough to ride over the park’s gnarly routes. He calls Hunter’s Creek Park a “well known secret.” Most people find out about the park through word-of-mouth. Bettinger first heard of it when he moved to the Buffalo area from Syracuse about 15 years ago.
Buckhorn Island State Park: Clear, blue water
On the northern edge of Grand Island, some 895 acres of marsh, meadows and woods await hikers, cyclists and cross-country skiers. In summer, a lot come for the cool waters of the Niagara River.
A northwest portion of the park is about two-thirds of a mile from the nearest road – although visitors can hear the hum of traffic from the North Grand Island Bridge in many parts of the park.
The park is popular with birdwatchers, kayakers and fishermen. Stephen and Megan Sacman, father and daughter, brought their kayak and paddle board.
Just off a paved trail, Frank Eugeni, Jeff Edsall, Dave Spina and Wayne Vallina anchor their boats on the water most mornings at 6 a.m. The four – junior high school buddies but who are now retired – come from the same neighborhood in Niagara Falls. They spend their summer days catching bass or floating on the Niagara River as self-proclaimed “river rats.”
Gallery: Buckhorn Island State Park