By Derek M. Otto
Around the first of February, people in Springville and the surrounding areas not only get cabin fever, but also the winter blahs. We seem to forget how beautiful winter can be. Thankfully, we are close to a natural escape—Sprague Brook Park.
The Erie Parks and Recreation web site describes Sprague Brook Park as, “No more enchanting location than this to fish, hike, camp, picnic or explore.”
For many of the Springville area residents, Sprague Brook is a natural escape. Not that Springville is a huge concrete jungle, but it is a place that has a lot of traffic and restrictions on variety of winter and summer activities. Sprague Brook is a place that offers a peaceful place to unwind and in the winter months, a place to have fun and enjoy the natural beauty of the season.
When it was formed as a county park in 1964, Erie County used State and Federal grant monies to buy over 2,200 acres from various farms on Foote Road. The vast majority of the park is in the Town of Concord, with 86 acres in the Town of Sardinia that was bought in 1965 for $1,500. In recent years, the Nature Sanctuary Society of Western New York has also purchased a five-acre tract of land adjacent to the park to preserve one of the region’s native fen ecosystems. The park was named for Sprague Book that travels east to west and cuts the park in two.
The park currently has 123 campsites, 30 of which are electric. There is no camping at Sprague Brook after Columbus Day and through the winter months. If you see campers at the park in the winter, it’s most likely the Boy and Girl Scouts; both organizations have used the park for winter campouts throughout the history of the park.
Sprague Brook offers the winter outdoor enthusiast a variety of activities. Snowboarding, sledding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are all offered at the park. A call to the park at (716) 592-2804 or the county park winter activity hotline at (716) 858-8513 can give you an idea of what activities are going on at the park. For Instance, a call earlier this week listed sledding, snowshoeing, snowboarding and cross country skiing on ungroomed trails. Snowmobiling is offered, but only when conditions allow.
Everyone I have talked to has been to Sprague Brook at some point in their life. Most everyone tells me of the great summer hikes and parties they have had there.
One of my favorite childhood activities was tubing and sledding at Sprague Brook. The hill is very steep and in most winters, it was glazed over so you could get some real speed. Nowadays, I would be more apt to go to a tubing club where they pull you up the hill. The climb up the hill is steep. The sledding hill is open 10 a.m. to dusk.
Hiking, believe it or not, is popular in the winter at Sprague Brook. Several people mentioned hiking in the winter. It could be a good work out. I would recommend a taller hiking boot. Advice from experienced hikers was that they do not recommend traveling the trails at Sprague Brook in the winter unless you are completely familiar with the trail. The scenery changes in the winter and it is easier to lose where the trail is in the winter. It is advisable that if there is more than a foot of snow to use a snowshoe. Like with all hiking, make sure you have a buddy and that other people know of a set time that you want to be off the trail. Snowshoe trekking and hiking and also cross-country skiing is open 7 a.m. until dusk at Sprague Brook.
Sprague Brook has its Casino shelter, complete with fireplace, kitchen and bathrooms, located at the bottom of the sledding hill. The Casino is available for rentals for a cost of $225 and can be reserved at http://www2.erie.gov/parks/index.php?q=reservations or by calling (716)858-8355.
Sprague Brook offers so many opportunities to take in the great outdoors this winter and into the spring. Plan your trip to this nearby winter escape and enjoy!