Half of Stiglmeier Park’s nature trails closed due to flooding

The Cheektowaga Conservation Corps and Town Facilities employees work to remediate damaged trails in Stiglmeier Park on July 17, 2017. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)
The Cheektowaga Conservation Corps and Town Facilities employees work to remediate damaged trails in Stiglmeier Park on July 17, 2017. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. – An estimated three miles of nature trails in Stiglmeier Park are closed for repairs after Cayuga Creek flooded Thursday night sending massive trees into the boardwalks and wiping out the gravel walkways.

UPDATE 7/18/17: All trails are being reopened to visitors.  Town officials urge caution because the washed away gravel caused muddy and slippery conditions. 

The Town of Cheektowaga closed every nature trail on the west end of the park Friday after officials surveyed the damage.  Cheektowaga Chronicle met up with Brad Agen, Program Director for the Cheektowaga Conservation Corps as they were attending to Cayuga Trail Monday morning.

Facilities workers use a chainsaw to cut a tree that crashed into a boardwalk along Cayuga Creek in Stiglmeier Park on July 17, 2017. (Submitted)
Facilities workers use a chainsaw to cut a tree that crashed into a boardwalk along Cayuga Creek in Stiglmeier Park on July 17, 2017. (Submitted)

“We’ve never seen a loss or deficit of gravel this bad, so it’s anyone’s guess as to how long it will take to re-gravel all of those trails,” said Mr. Agen.

He estimates that it could take around 50 tons of stone to re-gravel the trails.

“There’s probably three to four miles of trail that lost all of its gravel.  It’s a time-consuming process because of that gravel; there’s no real good way to dump it.  It has to be wheel barreled out all throughout the trails, and that’s what our guys have been doing for the past 35 years,” added Mr. Agen.

He walked the trails next to Cayuga Creek around 3 p.m. Thursday afternoon after the torrential rains let up.  “It was high, but it hadn’t even crested yet.  I’ve been here ten years and I’ve seen the creek flood a bunch of times but never to this extent, and never with the shear force and flow that it had,” continued Mr. Agen.

The flood polluted the park with brush, trees, garbage, firewood and even plastic baby pools.

“We’ve seen anything you could imagine from a suburban setting kind of thrown onto the trails and the banks.  The most dangerous thing that took out most of the boardwalks are giant old growth trees that have a foot diameter.  Once they got moving, they were incredibly dangerous.  Luckily nobody was hurt,” said Mr. Agen.

Seneca, Indian, and Grape Grove trails are also closed.

Mud covers a boardwalk along a nature trail in Stiglmeier Park on July 17, 2017. (Submitted)
Mud covers a boardwalk along a nature trail in Stiglmeier Park on July 17, 2017. (Submitted)

“There was so much water that a lot of our boardwalks were under water and got coated in mud which is why we closed that section of the trail because our boardwalks are dangerous to walk on because they are so coated in mud and so slippery we don’t want anyone falling on them,” said Mr. Agen.

Visitors to the park can still use the trails on the east end of the park.  The handicapped boardwalk, Timber Trail, and Woodcock Walk were not impacted by the flood.

“Those trails are still open and if they want to enjoy them feel free.  We love having them here and we thank them for enjoying our park and supporting us,” continued Mr. Agen.

The damaged trails could be reopened within a week as long as they are safe for visitors, but Agen estimated that it would take all summer and maybe into next year to fully remediate the damaged trails.  In the meantime, he asks that visitors “Proceed with caution and obey the trail closing signs. Be patient for a little bit longer.  We’re out here working as hard as we can to get these trails back to being safe for them to enjoy.”