One of the the things that I like most about the Ship Canal Commons is that there are reminders of the site’s industrial heritage lined throughout the project. Take, for example, the large grassy mounds that pay homage to the coal piles that were once found alongside the canal. Or the remnants of the railroad tracks that line the walkways. Even the use of steel girders erected as holders for historic and interpretive signage.
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. – BRO
In order to further explore the site and its newly added features, such as the second pedestrian bridge added to the site (lead photo), I asked Dave Stebbins, Vice President Buffalo Urban Development Corporation (BUDC), to take us through a land usage tour. I wanted to know how the second bridge (see first bridge) came into play since it was an unexpected addition that I happened upon during my last visit. From Dave:
The bridge is intended to:
· get people closer to the water;
· provide a shortened trail around the canal for bicyclists and pedestrians using the regional trail system or simply wanting to move from one side to the other (the canal is over 2,000 feet long, so it is a long walk around);
· providing fishing access – there platforms on both sides at the mid-section of the bridge;
· provide an historical reference to the huge gantry cranes that used to move material from the freighters to the storage piles and around the site;
· provide an architectural and visual icon for the park.
What can we expect in the form of entertainment this summer?
We have no formal activities planned for this summer. At least initially we will operate and maintain as a passive park. Running parks is not our normal business so we are going to ease into this role gradually. Perhaps we will work with the BOPC to see if they are interested in programming activities there and we would be open to meeting with any organized group that would like to use the park for an event. Contact BUDC.
Can people fish at the site?
Fishing is absolutely allowed and encouraged.
How about biking? Is it also encouraged?
Biking is allowed as well, in spite of the plethora of “No Biking” signs in the park. We are working with Justin Booth and the City to correct that.
Will there be any food available?
We would welcome a food truck down there. There are a couple hundred people working in the business park that would welcome other food options.
Will boaters be allowed to enter and drop anchor?
We are discouraging motorized boating. A major portion of the park project was development of fish habitat (underwater plantings and man-made shallows) and it is felt that motorized boating would damage the habitat. We do encourage canoes and kayaks and hope to add a car-top launch in the future.
Are there public bathrooms?
No public bathrooms for now, but we will reassess that as the summer season progresses.
What are the ladders (photo below) on the sides of the canal for?
The ladders are primarily safety ladders in case someone falls in.
What sort of trees, plants, etc. are being planted at this time?
There are a wide variety of mostly native plantings. We are just completing a major tree planting project (see below) on the north and east sides of the canal to create a more naturalized woodland area for wildlife. There are sections planted for wildlife as well.
^Click to enlarge
What about historic features?
In the future, we plan to add some historical artifacts, including the steel ladle (see below). We have acquired this ladle from the John Heinz Museum in Pittsburgh and are now designing its placement. This will be placed at the eastern end of the site to create an iconic anchor at the end of the canal. The “Sketch up” graphic depicts how the ladle might look when it is installed.