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LaSalle Park Design and Waterfront Access

At long last, it looks as if a design plan for a major section of LaSalle Park is getting closer to fruition. Yes, I’m talking about the southern portion of the park, which has been underutilized for decades. This is also the section of the park that has a crumbling seawall as well as a non-functional and deteriorating seaplane ramp.

1998 Master Plan, Revised July 2000 – Click to enlarge

Back in 1998, a Master Plan was created for the park, which was then updated in 2000. Unfortunately, the vision became a dream that never made it past the concept stage. Almost two decades later, a number of parties are coming back to the table, to possibly glean from the old plan, while formulating new strategies pertaining to repair, amenities, beautification and access.

1998 Master Plan, Revised July 2000 – Red line shows project focus area

So far, the site analysis is 80% complete. Three alternative concepts have been developed (see below). The 1st public meeting (review concepts, receive input) was held on April 25, and a second public meeting (to present and review preferred alternative) is scheduled for Thursday, June 8. Advance design plans, phasing options and cost estimates are scheduled to be complete by the end of June.

Some of the issues that are being addressed include:

The Pavilion: There are some tears that need to be repaired. The fabric has ten years left before needing to be addressed. There is some cosmetic cracking, and some corrosion, and the electrical needs work. The stage area has “substantial settling” and ADA accessibility needs to be addressed.

The Concession Building: Brick needs some repointing, wood fascia needs replacement, and the paving around the building needs to be replaced. The good news is that without much work, it could be ready for a tenant – the mechanicals and electrical system have already been renovated.

Shoreline: Washouts and sinkholes need to be filled. The former seaplane ramp has eroded concrete and exposed steel, which needs further investigation.

Seawall (Army Corps of Engineers): Most of the seawall needs minor repair (within project area). The northern section near the pumping station is planned for repair. The southern section has major deterioration.

Following are some of the issues that should be addressed:

  • Vehicular traffic along waterfront, barrier to pedestrians, excessive speed
  • Lack of minor (pedestrian only) pathways, purposeful connections or function
  • Access to water and/or waterfront
  • Lack of naturalized landscapes / excessive mowing
  • Pavilion not meeting needs of users
  • Cleaning of debris at seaplane ramp is difficult and requires heavy equipment
  • Parking during peak usage
  • Requirement to maintain emergency access through park and to neighborhood

Following are questions/comments/concerns that have been fielded:

  • Can something be done about the garbage in the park?
  • Improve the roadways
  • Car top boat launch, kayak/canoe
  • Ferry connection to marina
  • Buffer along I-190
  • Concern about vandalism if additional restroom constructed
  • Keep seaplane ramp for emergency access/training
  • Debris deflector
  • Focus on upland portions of park
  • Consider festivals and events that use pavilion
  • Possible Buffalo Maritime Center?

Following are opportunities at hand:

  • Relocate / limit vehicular traffic along waterfront
  • Define and consolidate parking areas
  • Continue 12-foot wide shoreline trail ‘off-road’ through park o Provide pedestrian pathways with purposeful connections
  • Provide plaza at concession stand
  • Reduce mowing, create naturalized or habitat areas
  • Capitalize on lake views and interior park views
  • Create waterfront experience
  • Provide access to water
  • Remove or protect existing seawall near seaplane ramp
  • Explore options for connection to Hudson and 4th St Park
  • Explore options for pavilion to meet needs of users

Comments from last public meeting, prepared by Wendel, are as follows:

  1. Keep cars away from playground area at south end. Inconsiderate drivers create safety issues.
  2. Andy Rabb mentioned we need to main vehicular access to the south end of the park for kayak transport, picnic shelter access.
  3. Measures will be taken to calm traffic. Recently installed speed bumps work well. Narrow more serpentine roads would help slow traffic and mitigate racetrack effect.
  4. Revetment treatment in “lagoon” needs to take into account lake surges and/or seiches.
  5. Existing sea wall built on wood cribbing which is deteriorating. Water surges below and releases like geysers from behind wall.
  6. Focusing parking in specific areas rather than along roadways and sea wall is preferred.
  7. Need for police buy-in on proposed circulation and parking concepts.
  8. Andy Rabb announced that it is likely that additional security cameras will be added in strategic locations.
  9. More people accessing and present in the park will theoretically aid in security and safety.
  10. LaSalle Park is currently open 24 hours to accommodate fishing activities. Changing park hours will require an amendment to the City Ordinance and City Charter.
  11. Audience likes the idea of pulling vehicular traffic away from the waterfront to the greatest extent possible in favor of developing a more pedestrian friendly setting.
  12. There is a desire to include water fountains for people, not just dogs. Andy Rabb mentioned that this would involve relatively expensive infrastructure to insure water quality safety. Wendel will look at opportunities to incorporate “bottle fillers” at strategic locations. Request for one by Skate Park and one by Playground.
  13. Need to remedy garbage totes blowing over and trash being strewn throughout the park. Possibly incorporate “tote hooks” similar to those implemented along Cape Cod Canal.
  14. Can boats potentially be docked along park sea wall? The navigational channel abuts the sea wall along the south end of the park and water level is approximately 9 feet below the Riverwalk, making access problematic.
  15. Need to incorporate emergency ladders along sea wall. This will be part of Army Corp of Engineers sea wall project, if feasible.
  16. It would be nice if boaters could access and appreciate park from the water.
  17. There was a suggestion to reference potential “Belt Line” connection potential along east edge of park.
  18. It was suggested that bike racks be added at strategic points within the park.
  19. The concern was raised about hypodermic needles strewn about park. Andy Rabb asked that park patron call 311 rather than handling or disposing of needles.
  20. Interpretive sign(s) shall be incorporated narrating the history of LaSalle Park.
  21. It would be nice if more winter activities could be programmed within the park.
  22. Concept should consider and show proposed walking paths within the park and how they would relate to existing paths.
  23. Andy Rabb mentioned that the City was successful in acquiring a grant from the Niagara River Greenway Commission to help fund the first phase of improvements for this project.

Per the agreement between City of Buffalo and Wendel (Project Landscape Architect) the scope for this project is broken into three (3) phases:

  • Phase 1 Pre-Design, Scoping & Programming (Site analysis, research, meet with stakeholders and generate three (3) alternative concepts to be generated for review and comment) Complete April 25, 2017
  • Phase 2 Schematic Design (Preferred concept and Estimate) End of May 2017
  • Phase 3 Design Development (Preferred concept and estimate will be further advanced identifying potential phasing to help facilitate grant applications to fund construction documents and subsequent construction)
    End of June 2017

A LaSalle Park Steering Committee meeting will be held on Thursday, June 8 from 6:00pm to 7:30pm at the Niagara Branch Public Library – (lower level) 280 Porter Avenue. The meeting will be hosted by the Division of Parks and Recreation. Wendel (the City’s design consultant) will reveal the final design concept. The community it invited to attend. 

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at The Hotel @ The Lafayette, and the Madd Tiki Winter Luau. Other projects: Navigetter.

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  • OldFirstWard

    So how and when does the park become gentrified?

    • S.L.Hawks

      Soon after the boardwalk is built, some sod is slapped down, “Shark Girl 2” is installed, and the local newz outlets hype the crap out of it …. build something stoopit, and the Stoopit will come

    • Cvepo

      Maybe we can build a Bass Pro Shop here!!!

    • rustbeltbrett

      People currently using the park can have nice things too. No gentrification needed.

  • ElmwoodEd

    I would like to see the seaplane landing ramp retained and restored. I think it tells an important part of Buffalo’s story, could it be used as a boat launch? And who knows, maybe seaplanes will come back.

    • No_Illusions

      Seaplane tours could be a cool attraction.

  • You can tell how the Waterfront Village introduces discontinuity from the rest of the waterfront. By this I mean Canalside can’t be fully “connected” to LaSalle Park without going behind this place, which is private property.

  • Concept A looks the best. I like the kayak launch/lagoon setup and the land bridge. That’s creating a whole new habitat, and you can launch big boats all over the waterfront anyway.

    The land bridge would be a nice touch.

  • SpeaksTheTruth

    The dog park has been a nice addition in recent years but it has to move. It would be better situated on the east side of the park, bordering the side that shares a property line with the railroad tracks and I-190 ( so, in straight axis with the swimming pool and skate park). At its current location, the dog park is plopped in the central meadow of the park. It’s unsightly chain link fence interrupts what used to be a sweeping panorama across the park and towards the river and lake. That open land and view needs to be restored. If it means a baseball diamond needs to be relocated, swapped with the dog park, or eliminated, so be it. How anyone felt the dog park’s current location made any sense is a mystery.

  • Flyguy2pt0

    Why did the 1998 plan, updated in 2000 fall by the wayside and never come to fruition? Why is a redesign and more study needed now? What are the chances this plan is implemented? Will we be talking about another redesign in 5-10 years? Are we scheming up new parks investments without the funds to actually build them AND maintain them into the future? Is this why the last set of plans went nowhere? Its sad because I know there was a lot of optimism around those prior plans and to see no progress is another head scratcher. Can’t we commit to a plan and see it through RE Lasalle Park already? Its frustrating to watch wheels spin. 2000 (last plan update) was 17 years ago already! A child who was born back then is about to knock on high school graduation at this point.

  • mightyNiagara

    i like the land bridge concept!

    • G Orty

      Cool yeah, but probably the biggest target for value engineering when it comes to that. That’s going to be a monstrous construction, with a whole lot of soil weight if it’s going to be turf, let alone even small trees.

      • greenca

        There’s no real reason to put in a land bridge here. It looks cool but there are better uses of the money. It makes more sense where they’re used to allow wildlife to migrate over highways to avoid isolated populations. (I’ve seen them in SoCal.)

        • mightyNiagara

          there’s no immediate reason to update anything more than the seawall, so why bother with anything at all?
          sometimes a unique piece of infrastructure SHOULD go in which would draw in people to explore a space, people are animals too.
          the pedestrian bridge is not inviting and looks like a place to trap the unsuspecting.

          • greenca

            Nice thought if money and scarce resources weren’t in our reality. Oh, I forgot, it’s BRO. Sorry.

          • mightyNiagara

            yea. it is bro, if something unique and interesting could be done, people burn it. if something plain and inexpensive can be done, people burn it.

  • G Orty

    Kind of scared by what seems to be seas of pavement around the ball fields.

    • Johnny Pizza

      I think that’s just mowed grass.

  • kfy321

    There is also a safety issue as there are openings to allow drainage onto the railroad tracks from the rectangular sports field. I noticed this in fall of 2005 and notified 2 On Your Side the following spring and they interviewed me on camera and also noticed the ground was hard there. They took up the issue with the Erie County Parks Commissioner then, one of the Sedita dynasty, as the county was over all city parks then, but nothing has changed on this issue.

  • Cave Narfel

    Hello. The areas just near the water authority can be utilized for a small work out /physical fitness location for the public to use like at Delaware Park.