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Ship Canal Commons Opens on Outer Harbor

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Buffalo Urban Development Corporation, the City of Buffalo and Erie County this past week celebrated the completion of Ship Canal Commons, a 22-acre waterfront park. The new, public green space is an amenity for the existing business park, developed as part of the successful brownfield remediation project along Union Ship Canal at Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park.

Ship Canal Commons is host to recreational activities like fishing and hiking and also includes bike and walking trails, over 400 native tree species and a foot bridge that spans 200 linear feet over the Union Ship Canal. The multi-use trails connect pedestrians to the Outer Harbor, Tifft Nature Preserve and the Seaway Trail. Wildlife habitat improvements are an important part of this environmental restoration project.

“Ship Canal Commons and the Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park are examples of a highly successful brownfield transformation project that not only rid the environment of contaminated wastes buried underground, but created a usable, green area so that the public can enjoy one of the many natural resources New York has to offer,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. “The site improvements and ecological restoration help us to execute our mission to conserve, improve and protect our state’s environment. I am pleased that DEC, in collaboration with our local, state and federal partners, achieved this great success.”

081.jpg“Union Ship Canal anchors the southern end of the newly renovated Outer Harbor Parkway and adds another, exciting destination point along Buffalo’s waterfront,” said Congressman Brian Higgins. “This project, along with the recently completed access at the Coast Guard site near the historic lighthouse and ongoing work on the Times Beach Boardwalk, Gallagher Beach Pavilion and Union Ship Canal node, demonstrates the tremendous momentum we are building along the Outer Harbor.”

“As the Chairman of the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation, I have worked closely over the last two years with our excellent Board and staff members to make this incredible project a reality,” said Mayor Byron Brown. “A 22-acre park in the City of Buffalo where once there were blast furnaces and rail lines. Now all of that has been replaced with walking paths, bike paths, a place to fish, hundreds of trees and a breath taking landscape. Hundreds of jobs have been created in this area and I want to thank all of those involved in continuing the momentum in the City of Buffalo and its waterfront.”

As part of the wildlife habitat improvements at Ship Canal Commons, large tree trunks were weighted and placed on the bottom of the Union Ship Canal and partially buried in the underwater stabilization berm with the roots exposed to create artificial reefs. Floating rafts of willow logs also provide cover for fish. A one-half acre portion of the site, adjacent to the northwest corner of the canal, was excavated to create a small marsh where native aquatic plants were placed. Habitat improvements will allow fish and other aquatic wildlife to thrive and enhance spawning throughout the entire Buffalo River basin.

USC_green_aerial.jpgCleanup of the land that is now Ship Canal Commons involved removing debris, excavating and removing contaminated soil from selected areas and placing a two-foot layer of clean soil over the entire site. An underwater berm of gravel and sand was constructed to stabilize the 100-year- old canal wall made of concrete and timber because sections of the canal wall were found to be at risk of collapse.
Work for the Ship Canal Commons project was performed under the Environmental Restoration Program (ERP) authorized by New York state’s 1996 Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act. The cost for the new, public green space totaled $9,255,000. Funding was provided by:

• DEC – $6,030,000 (ERP funds)

• New York State Department of Transportation – $1,430,000 (federal highway authority fund)

• Erie County – $995,000 (local matching funds)

• Niagara River Greenway Commission – $385,000 (Buffalo and Erie County Standing Committee of the Niagara River Greenway Commission) and $115,000 (Ecological Committee of the Niagara River Greenway Commission).

• New York State Department of State – $250,000 (local waterfront regeneration program)

• BUDC – $50,000 (redevelopment fund)


Ship Canal Commons was built on a parcel of land that was once the site of Hanna Furnace, an iron smelting facility. The former Hanna Furnace property, located near Route 5 at the southern city limit of Buffalo, was backfilled with ash, cinders and slag from local iron and steel foundries. The Hanna Furnace foundry was built on top of this fill material. From 1903 to 1982 when the facility closed, the Hanna Furnace plant processed iron ore into pig iron. As a result, the soil and groundwater were contaminated with hazardous substances including heavy metals and semi-volatile organic compounds.


Informational displays will be located throughout the park to reconnect people to the industrial heritage of the site. The displays will also educate the public on the importance the steel and iron industries had on the region, as well as the importance of the transition of the site into a community and ecological resource.

Parcels of land from two to 24 acres are available for redevelopment at Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park. Contact Buffalo Urban Development Corporation at (716) 856-6525 for more information.


Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

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