Hunters Creek (Sgt. Mark Rademacher Park)
Hunters Creek is one of the best area riding spots once it dries out. It has a huge network of trails that makes it easy to get lost or get on a "wrong" one too easily. But once you learn your way around, and get a feel for how the weather affects this park, it definitely is a go-to place for riding. Although usually referred to as "Hunters Creek Park", the official name of the park is Sgt. Mark Rademacher park in honor of a local soldier killed during the invasion of Granada in the 1980s.
Unlike most of the other parks and riding areas listed here, WNYMBA was not involved with development of this trail system. This park has a very interesting history. Back when the first area MTBers discovered the sport around 1990, there was no place to ride, but there were rumors of this place called Hunters Creek. Turns out there was not much there. Just one dirt road (the one that is mostly eroded now and goes from Centerline past the old Kellogg Cabin site out to the pipeline) and four trails - the orange trail, the trail from the dirt road down to the creek (now part of the Sgt. Mark trail), a short section from where the picnic table used to be out to the pipeline, and a small loop out of the lower parking lot (not the current purple trail).
Despite the limited number of trails, the fact that there was nowhere else to ride other than the tiny XC ski loop at Sprague led cyclists to explore the few trails that were there. However, it turns out it was not even a regular county park. The county had purchased the land in the 70s for a future park but never developed it. As far as the county was concerned, it was posted closed, although nobody ever enforced it.
The hands off policy of the county lead to problems. Starting in the mid 90s, a local hiker decided it would be a good park to build some trails. Now this doesn't sound like a problem, but of course, nothing pisses off land managers more than trail construction without permission. Some of these trails the hiker built were quite good and today form the backbone of some of the best rides in the park. However, the hiker didn't know when to stop and kept building until the unnavigable maze of trails we know today started to take root. Some of these trails went through always-wet spots or went straight up and down erodable hillsides causing many to be disasters. Plus once word that there were a lot of trails there got out, the local neighbors started pushing the county to enforce the no tresspassing ruling. This became a big deal (Buffalo News Article from then) and cyclists were about to lose one of the few places around to ride.
The situation was resolved through a master planning process implemented by the parks department, in which WNYMBA was heavily involved. WNYMBA was able to succcessfully lobby for continued access to the park by bikes. You can read the master plan for Hunters here.
Since the implementation of the master plan in 2003, the park has been officially open to the public, which means that the county started allowing volunteer maintenance activities in the park. WNYMBA has been active in maintaining trails since then, doing our best to make this a great place to ride.
Unlike many other places to ride around here, Hunters Creek takes a very long time to dry out. This is in part due to poor trail design (many of the trails go along flat sections with no place for the water to drain), but also due to the geology which has a seasonal impermeable layer under the surface soil that keeps the soil from draining, usually until June, although some years earlier). And although WNYMBA has done our best to build drainage into as many of the trails as we can, many trails take a while to dry out even later in summer if there has been a lot of rain. So keep this in mind when deciding where to ride today.
Because of the dense network of trails, be sure to buy one of WNYMBA's maps of the park. WNYMBA has put up intersection marker numbers at dozens of intersections that match the map so you will always know where you are. Or just fire up your mtbproject app on your smartphone - it works even if you don't have a cell signal which is common at Hunters.