A little over a week ago, while taking my dogs to “Dog Island,” I noticed a warning sign by SOLitude Lake Management LLC, stating that the waterbody surrounding the island was going to be treated with Aquathol K and Aquathol Super K pesticides to control the invasive species Hydrilla, which is found in the Tonawanda Creek section of the Erie Canal. The sign warned that during the days of treatment, there should be no swimming in the waters.
As a precaution, I decided to take some time before visiting the dog park, since my pups love to frolic in (and drink) the water. It was my wife who suggested a 20-minute excursion (from Allentown) to the Charles E. Burchfield Nature & Art Center (BNAC), located in West Seneca. “The what?” I asked her.
Incredibly, I was not aware that there was a local park that was dedicated to the prolific WNY artist. With that, we hopped into the car and set out for an adventure. And what an adventure it turned out to be. From the moment that we arrived to the time that we left – about a two hour span – we had an absolutely wonderful hike through the park.
The park itself is a feast for anyone who loves the great outdoors, the woods, picnicking, nature, art, history… there’s so much to take in. Not only is this park very dog-friendly, it’s also one of the more kid-friendly parks that I have come across. From the large playground at the entrance, to an assortment of interactive “treasure hunts,” I was impressed by the family-oriented nature of the park. There’s so much to explore, plenty of places to sit in the shade, seating areas, gardens, meadows, an amphitheater, wayfinding markers, QR codes, and a creek.
We ended up taking my mother-in-law on this adventure, due to the ease of the hiking trails, boardwalks, a shaded pergola, and the art component. It turns out that Charles Burchfield lived nearby and would come to the site – originally part of the Buffalo Creek Reservation – for inspiration and to paint. There’s a historical timeline that is spelled out in a handy brochure, which begins with the Seneca Nation reservation (and their love and respect for nature), then home to German settlers in 1843, the site of Island Park Hotel in the 1900’s, and finally the BNAC in 1998. There’s also a small cemetery on the grounds, called Middle Ebenezer Cemetery.
Aside from the 2-miles of nature trails, the park itself is 29 acres, with 19 acres being accessible by the public. There is also a BNAC Gallery and classroom building, which is situated near the entrance to the park. I learned on the BNAC website that the gallery has been closed since 2017 due to the need for structural repairs, which is unfortunate because it would be such a delight to see it functional (with a small café maybe?).
Despite the gallery building being closed, there were plenty of other park assets to enjoy. There are also restrooms for anyone looking to make a pitstop.
Towards the end of our hike (stroll), we came across the “Sinisteria” art installation by artist Frank O’Connor. This is a very bright and colorful lean-to type of shelter, mainly constructed from dead branches collected at the park. The inside of the installation is quite magical, as the sun illuminates the structure’s riveted plates, creating a most ethereal effect.
Aside from reading all of the Burchfield wayfinding placards, and drawing inspiration from the artist’s relationship with the setting, I found myself mesmerized by the ancient waters of Buffalo Creek (Seneca Creek), although I was equally unimpressed by the amount of what appears to be didymo (didymosphenia geminata) aka “rock snot.” The presence of the slimy brown algae that cakes onto the riverbed underfoot makes for some treacherous walking, so be very careful if you venture out into the waters.
Aside from the “rock snot” and the gallery closure, everything else about the park was remarkable. We found it informative and relaxing, with surprises around every corner. I highly recommend paying this Nature & Art Center a visit. To a small degree, it reminded me of being young and visiting Artpark back in the day. I love the combination of art and nature as a premise for a park. I also love that there is such a spellbinding dedication to Charles Burchfield, whose legacy can be seen in every tree and meadow along the creek.
BNAC is cared for by Friends of the Burchfield Nature & Art Center
2001 Union Rd | West Seneca , NY 14224-1436
Open dawn to dusk