Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper hosted a press conference today to kick off the 2019 water season with its annual Waterkeeper Weekend. The announcement promoted the Weekend’s activities and partnership with Labatt USA, including the Spring Shoreline Sweep, Western New York’s largest single-day clean-up event, as well the public debut of the organization’s Buffalo Blueway, followed by the announcement of a major economic development project along the Blueway.
Earl Ketry, founder of Buffalo RiverWorks, unveiled plans for a $6 million water-based restaurant and entertainment complex at the RiverBend site located on the south side of South Park Avenue at Lee Street, across from the Tesla plant. The two-story complex would contain 30,000 sq.ft. of space and include an amphitheater along the river.
Over the past year, Ketry has been hinting that he was considering an investment into that section of the Buffalo River, especially with the continued investments by Governor Cuomo into the region’s burgeoning Blue Economy. In 2017, Cuomo announced that $10 million in Buffalo Billion II funding would be dedicated, via Empire State Development, to expanding and enhancing the waterfront by creating a series of connection points that would interlink the waterfront for everyone to enjoy.
“Investments in the universal access, restoration and protection of our waterways is an investment in the local economy,” said Jill Jedlicka, executive director of Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper. “Governor Cuomo’s significant commitment to protecting and restoring New York state’s waters, and the investment of $10 million from Empire State Development into a Buffalo Blueway system, has become a catalyst we need for access to our waters. Partnerships with businesses like Labatt USA and RiverWorks help us and our communities protect these investments for future generations. When the waterways and the shorelines come back to life, the communities around them will come back to life, too.”
Cuomo’s investments into the waterfront will also see the advent of a number of waterfront infrastructure improvements, many that pertain to public interactions brought about by new paddle-sport launches, fishing piers, boat docks, waterfront observation platforms, parking, public art and interactive mapping. These enhancements are being coordinated with the help of Waterkeeper, and its vision for a water-based Blueway trail connected to landside Greenway trail systems.
“Investing in clean water and the health of our environment is a powerful economic development tool, and I thank Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper for their year-round efforts to protect and support healthy waterways in Western New York,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “New York is providing the support needed to make the Buffalo Blueway a reality and better connect people to the water. Improving access along the Buffalo River will further our shared efforts to revitalize the waterfront, boosting tourism and transforming the area for generations to come.”
This past year, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper started the process of design and construction at two access points and will be enhancing several others with unique wayfinding signage and amenities.
The organization announced that one of these Blueway sites will be built several miles upstream in an area known as “RiverBend.” This new site will provide improved access to a part of the Buffalo River that very few people know about or have had the opportunity to experience and enjoy.
2019 Water Season Kickoff
Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper also celebrated the unofficial kickoff to 2019 water season with news of its annual Waterkeeper Weekend presented by Labatt USA. To mark its 30th anniversary, Waterkeeper Weekend will be bigger and better than ever. The not-for-profit is celebrating its anniversary Friday, May 10, with an Un-Gala at The Barrel Factory. Saturday, May 11 will mark the 14th annual Spring Shoreline Sweep, which celebrates a record numbers of volunteers and sites. More than 2,200 volunteers registered to help clean-up 60 sites across WNY in a two-hour period. Last year’s sweep removed more than 20 tons of trash from shorelines. Labatt USA will host an afterparty for pre-registered participants at the Labatt House at 79 Perry Street, where many of the volunteers will enjoy food, drinks and live music.
“We’re thrilled to kick off another year of our partnership with Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper by sponsoring Waterkeeper Weekend,” said Mary Beth Popp, vice president of corporate relations for Labatt USA. “As a triple bottom line company, we’re incredibly proud to work so closely with an organization that devotes its time and resources to improving our community, mitigating environmental footprints and creating opportunities for everyone to enjoy Buffalo’s beautiful waterways year-round.”
Ketry’s RiverWorks was the first location of Blueway investments by Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper last season, which included a new kayak launch with adaptive access docks. The announcement of new development at the RiverBend site is further proof that Waterkeeper’s decades of leadership in restoring the health and access to the Buffalo River has led to economic revitalization and recovery for Buffalo’s waterfront.
“With the success of RiverWorks, I have experienced firsthand how investing in the restoration of water resources can lead to substantial growth and economic development — and our company continues to take a great leap forward as a direct result of the Blueway,” said Ketry. “Without the vision and dedication of Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, none of this would have been possible. With the further expansion of additional access points, the true economic impact generated by the Blueway is just beginning and I am confident that the 14 miles of shoreline will become a regional destination. I am deeply committed to the revitalization of the Blueway and I look forward to making additional investments to ensure the Blueway is a true asset to Buffalo and beyond.”
Go with the ‘Flo
Today, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper unveiled the new Blueway campaign theme and website, buffaloblueway.com, which includes an interactive map and trip planning features. Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper also debuted an interpretive sign and Blueway marker that will be located at each public access point to guide Blueway goers and improve the way people experience Buffalo as a waterfront city. The newly unveiled campaign tagline, “Go with the ‘Flo” was thoughtfully created as it represents the genuine, welcoming mindset of Buffalo and invites people from all walks of life to experience the exciting, revitalized waterfront.