The urban rail trail project along the DL&W corridor just got a big boost thanks to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York. BCBS of WNY has dedicated $245,000 to the project through the Blue Fund. The funds are being directed to the Land Conservancy, which will be earmarked to the creation of the linear park. Once complete, the park will run from the Buffalo River, through the Old First Ward, The Valley, and Perry neighborhoods, to connect hikers and cyclists to the bustling Cobblestone District and Canalside (see the vision).
WNYLC will be working in tandem with community partners such as Buffalo Audubon, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, Groundwork Buffalo, the Old First Ward Community Association, and the Valley Community Association, to implement programming that will center around the educational opportunities pertaining to the environment, nature, outdoor activities, etc. These groups will also help to flesh out the vision for the corridor.
“There are many examples of places around the country where urban linear parks are making communities better places to live and visit,” said Nancy Smith, Land Conservancy Executive Director. “We are excited to create a place like this for our residents. The DL&W corridor will be a place where all of the benefits of nature, are accessible to everyone.”
“The new trail and linear park on the former DL&W rail corridor will support enhanced health outcomes for our community by expanding access to the physical and mental health benefits of immersion in nature, walking, and biking,” said Michael Ball, Director of Blue Fund.
Up until this point, there has been plenty of community engagement, to allow the public to voice their thoughts and ideas about the trail. Ultimately, the mile-and-a-half long trail system will connect to numerous other destinations along the waterfront, including Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper’s future Genesee Waterways Center, and myriad small craft launch points along the Buffalo River as part of the Rust to Blue initiative. The linear parkway will also allow visitors to embrace with this city’s industrial and railroad heritage.
“The community is excited about having a place to relax and enjoy the beautiful green paths,” says Sara Heidinger, a community leader who grew up alongside the rail corridor. “We believe this project will strengthen our community connections and provide a place for people to get outside and enjoy the outdoors all year round.”
“With this investment from Blue Fund, the DL&W trail could become the healthy urban green space that the community strongly supports,” said Congressman Brian Higgins. “Our region is seeing incredible revitalization thanks to investments along our waterfront, and the Western New York Land Conservancy has the vision and expertise to bring a natural element that will also honor and highlight our historic neighborhoods.”
The next big steps for the DL&W project are:
- The Land Conservancy has retained Kishore Varanasi, an award-winning urban designer, strategist, innovator, teacher, and writer to advise the Land Conservancy during the design ideas competition
- Invite design professionals from around the world to submit their ideas for the corridor to the Land Conservancy
- Carefully select jury of community leaders and design professionals
In addition to the Blue Fund, the design ideas competition is possible thanks to generous funding from M&T Bank, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Fund at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, NYS Conservation Partnership Program, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy through the Doppelt Family Trail Development Fund, and contributions from individual Land Conservancy members.
If you are interested in learning more about the DL&W project or the Land Conservancy, please reach out at (716) 687-1225 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also support the Land Conservancy’s work by making an online donation at wnylc.org or by sending a check to P.O. Box 471, East Aurora, NY 14052.
Lead image: Conceptual interpretation from Hiro Hata Studio, UB School of Architecture and Planning