During a recent visit to “Dog Island” with my pups, I struck up a conversation with a woman about places in and around that city that had water features. She asked me if I had ever been to Tillman Park (Tillman Road Wildlife Management Area) in Clarence. I told her that I hadn’t, upon which time she explained that there was a quarry filled with water, and plenty of paths to walk the dogs.
When I got home, I told my wife about Tillman Park, and she said that she wanted to go. We headed out to the park a couple of days ago, to see what it was all about.
After a short drive from the city, we found the park and got the two dogs situated in the parking lot. A couple of minutes later, we found ourselves walking along a quaint little boardwalk. Suddenly, my wife pointed off to the right and said that she felt that that water was nearby. Following her instinct, we headed down a path that led us right to a very small pond. A little bit further down the path we came across one of the larger quarries.
While it did not resemble a quarry as much as a pond, the waters were crystal clear. There were also numerous fish swimming close to the sandy shore. As we watched the water, a man passed by with a fishing rod in hand. He said that he was just passing some time casting for bluegill.
As we walked around the first pond, we heard the sound of a large bullfrog, which, to me, is always a good sign. I couldn’t get over how crystal clear the water was. There was also very little litter around too. The few pieces of trash that we came across, we picked up and put into our bag.
*Amended: There is a leash law in place for people who bring their dogs to the Tillman Road Wildlife Management Area.
As for foot traffic at the park, we only saw 6 people the entire time that we were there. We did see plenty of wildlife though, including tons of frogs, toads, and birds and fish.
Aside from a pleasant walk along the water’s edge, a stroll through the paths of the Wildlife Management Area is quite nice as well. In fact, it’s fairly magical. There are no sounds of people or cars… it’s as if the park was hundreds of miles away in the middle of nowhere. But that couldn’t be further from the truth – the town of Clarence is right around the corner.
Somehow, this oscure unfettered oasis has managed to elude development over the years, which is a miracle. That said, many of the wooded roads leading up to the park all have “for sale” signs along the road, which is sad, because of the importance of retaining natural buffers around such natural treasures.
Tillman Park is now officially one of my favorite escapes in WNY. I still can’t believe that it exists in the first place. From the smells of the flora to the crystal clear waters, it’s as if this park has somehow managed to elude all of the threats that face so many of our natural surroundings.
A visit to Tillman Park is quite magical, whether you opt to bring your dogs or not. There are plenty of trails to hike, water features, critters… and it’s as serene as it is pristine.
The only thing that was missing was a garbage can. So be sure to bring a bag with you (Leave No Trace Principles), and take out whatever you bring in.
The primary purposes of Tillman Road Wildlife Management Area (WMA) are for wildlife management, wildlife habitat management, and wildlife-dependent recreation. This is a 239-acre property located eight miles east of the City of Buffalo. The area is primarily wetland with some old farm fields and two small quarry ponds. The outstanding feature is a cattail marsh which attracts large numbers of waterfowl during spring and fall migration. The area has extensive trails for wildlife observation along with viewing areas and 300 feet of boardwalk, which are universally accessible.
Many years ago the land on this WMA was cleared and used for farming. The last record of farming was in the 1940s. In addition to farming, mining of local deposits of gravel occurred during this period. There were many areas of disturbance such as shallow pits, mounds, spoil pits, and ponds. The parcel was acquired by the DEC in 1977 with funds from the Environmental Bond Act of 1972.