NORTH COLLINS, N.Y. — With over ten thousand acres and 34 properties, the Erie County Park System has something to offer for everyone. Many of the big parks like Chestnut Ridge are well known, but there are a lot of smaller gems hidden away that bear exploring. Franklin Gulf Park in North Collins was acquired by the county in the 1960s. It's a beautiful 631-acre undeveloped forest that was once farmland. Chuck Bartlett knows it well. He's the Supervising Park Ranger for Erie County.
"It was actively farmed and now the forest has taken over again. So there are sections with a very very young forest, and other sections with an older forest there that are absolutely gorgeous, and are why the park would have been added to the park system."
Perhaps the most stunning aspect of the forest is its Hemlock grove. The silence of the grove and the towering trees give hikers the feeling of being in a green cathedral. Bartlett says there are many old trees, and that's in part because of the topography of the land." The trees along the edges of the ravines were probably not logged nearly as heavily as the interior portions of the park, so there's the potential for some older trees in there. So it's just really significant again because it's a big milestone for forest health."
Of course, a healthy environment includes a lot of wildlife. "We actually had a trail cam out this winter." Bartlett says " We were able to capture coyotes on it which isn't overly surprising, some foxes, some different hawk species we've seen on it, but most exciting, we caught a rather large fisher on the trail cam."
The park boasts an extensive and recently improved trail system, making a hike safer and easier to navigate. "Eleven unique colored trails in the park that you can follow." Explains Bartlett. " And on the trails, you can see we developed a trail marker that is two inches by four inches with a color on it."
A hike through Franklin Gulf can go far in fulfilling one of our most primal needs. "Humans came from Nature, and no matter how much we as a culture try to fight that, our bodies still crave Nature, our minds still crave Nature, and spending time in it fulfills a lot of deep desires."
To find out more about Franklin Gulf, click here.