This past July, we discussed the potential of connecting land along the Buffalo River, to create a greenway that would essentially utilize fallow land along the former DL&W rail line (see post). After I posted on the possible reuse of the land, as a public right-of-way, I took a long walk along the trail, which showed just how impactful such as project would be to the Old First Ward. At that point, I had heard rumblings that certain groups were discussing the potential of the fallow land.
Today, the Western New York Land Conservancy (WNYLC) is announcing that a vision of this nature is going to become a reality. The DL&W rail corridor will be transitioned into a an environmentally friendly trail and linear park. The parcel of land is a ribbon of green space that extends a mile and a half, from the Buffalo River (across from Solar City) to the DL&W Terminal in downtown Buffalo near Canalside. That is a significant amount of land that is being touted as an “inspiring once-in-a-lifetime project.”
The land in question is currently owned by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA). The property extends through The Valley, The First Ward, and the Perry neighborhoods. The land consists of backyards, businesses, and parks. It’s a beautiful piece of property that is, for the most part, forested land, fields, flowers, brush, and even deer.
Nancy Smith, Executive Director of the Western New York Land Conservancy, said, “We would like to see this formerly industrial landscape become a place where people can reconnect with nature and each other. This fall we began meeting with neighbors and community leaders to start a conversation about what this rail corridor could become. One possibility is an inspiring and environmentally friendly trail and linear park.”
Inspiration for this new green parcel of land came from within – it’s an obvious connectivity project that will get people out walking, jogging, X-country skiing, snowshoeing, and biking in the great outdoors. Inspiration also arose from other projects around the country, including Manhattan’s High Line, Detroit’s Dequindre Cut, and Chicago’s 606.
“Places like these can create a vibrancy to our neighborhood just as Buffalo River Fest Park and Mutual Riverfront have done,” said Peg Overdorf, Executive Director of The Valley Community Association. ”These parks have rid the neighborhood of blight and have been a stimulus for economic development while creating beautiful places for all to enjoy.”
The trail will not only be heavily used by visitors to the waterfront, it will also be a great resource for residents living along the greenway. Plus, more people are going to want to live along the path… nearby investments will surely be made in the form of residential builds, which will attract new residents, that will feed new businesses. Green spaces are in high demand in cities around the world, especially in cities, near waterfronts.
“Not only will it be a place to relax and enjoy the beautiful green paths, it will be a way to create a more walkable, bikeable community and connect neighborhoods together,” noted Sara Heidinger, President of The Old First Ward Community Center. “Neighbors and visitors alike would be able to enjoy the paths throughout the changes of each season as well as the birds, butterflies and other wildlife that has taken to this space as a home. There are also so many ways to incorporate public art into this project as well, which, to me, is an important piece.”
The WNYLC has stated that this property will also be dedicated to environmental measures, such as wildlife habitat and stormwater retention. At the same time, the Conservancy also stated that “Portions of the corridor adjacent to the DL&W Terminal, the current terminus of the NFTA Metro Rail, could accommodate potential future light rail expansion.”
“This project will provide a new opportunity for residents and visitors to explore Buffalo with vistas that bring together our City’s unique industrial heritage with our magnificent natural landscape,” said Congressman Brian Higgins. “Time and again the Western New York Land Conservancy has served as a steward with great vision and this latest project along the DL&W line will continue progress that embraces the community characteristics that are naturally ours.”
The vision for this new greenway is being made possible thanks to funding from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Funds at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, and donations from Land Conservancy members.
NYS Senator Tim Kennedy said “As our city and our waterfront continue to see a sustained revitalization, so too should this urban greenspace that serves as a beacon of connectivity throughout downtown. I’m grateful to the Land Conservancy for thoughtfully engaging with the public about the potential of this project, and I look forward to hearing about the community’s visions and hopes for this land.”
“Converting an abandoned rail corridor into public space is a great example of smart growth, which is embraced in the Erie County ‘Initiatives for a Smart Economy’,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “Projects like this enhance our community’s walkability and provide open spaces for our children and grandchildren to enjoy. They also give us an opportunity to reinvest in established neighborhoods.”
Moving forward, a community vision plan will be completed, upon which time a “high profile” design competition will get underway. According to WNYLC “M&T Bank is sponsoring the competition and has contributed $50,000 as a challenge gift toward the project. The Land Conservancy must raise at least an additional $100,000 by the end of May 2018 to match the challenge gift and make the design competition a reality.”
Erie County Legislator Barbara Miller-Williams said “The Land Conservancy has done a great job of engaging people that live around this rail corridor. I am excited to learn more about what the community would like to see here.”
David A. Franczyk, Fillmore District Council Member, said “I enthusiastically support the Western New York Land Conservancy’s visionary and timely project to create a green pathway through the remnants of Buffalo’s industrial past, providing a profound educational and recreational experience for all those interested in exploring the city’s rich history in a unique environment.”
Tom George, Director of Public Transit at the NFTA, says, “The NFTA looks forward to the opportunity to work with the community and stakeholders to create a vision for our rail corridor. The chance to collaborate with the Land Conservancy to develop consensus on enhancement of the corridor through creation of public spaces in concert with future light rail service can provide great benefits to our community.”
“We will work closely with neighborhood residents, business owners, elected officials, and other community organizations to find out what matters most to them,” said Nancy Smith, Land Conservancy Executive Director. “This could be a transformational project, not just for surrounding neighborhoods, but for the entire region.”
Please join this effort and make this project a success by donating to support the DL&W project. Contributions of all amounts are helpful and can be made on the Land Conservancy’s website (www.wnylc.org), or by sending a check made payable to the “Western New York Land Conservancy” to P.O. Box 471, East Aurora, NY 14052. For questions, please contact the Land Conservancy. All donations for the DL&W project are tax-deductible.
If you have ideas about this possible new trail and linear park, the Land Conservancy wants your input via a survey on their website at www.wnylc.org/DLW. You can also send comments or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (716) 687-1225. The Land Conservancy plans to host a community workshop in early 2018.
Lead image: Jajean Rose-Burney