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Getting Back to Nature: The North Tonawanda Botanical Garden Living Shoreline Project

Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper has outlined its North Tonawanda Botanical Garden Living Shoreline Project that will one day see a semi-lifeless landscape along Tonawanda Creek transitioned into a thriving 12-acre park. This park – the North Tonawanda Botanical Garden – is located at 1825 Sweeney Street. Once complete, specimen trees, shrubs and flowers, will replace the lawn and a section of the parking lot and roadway inside the project area.

Site condition

Along the waterline, a riparian buffer will be implemented, with a spawning substrate. The park will feature a bioswale system and wet meadow, with natural habitat features (in-water habitat logs, shoreline snags, bird boxes, etc.) Ultimately, the parkscape will be a mixture of public amenities that will co-exist with the more natural park features. The added green infrastructure and bio-retention features will help to collect and filter runoff. Another goal is to restore aquatic, riparian, and upland habitats, while creating a seamless transition between the land and water, according to Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper.

Project assets include:

  • Provide for more natural shoreline protections to reduce erosion.
  • Establish much needed fish spawning and resting habitats along Tonawanda Creek, supporting such species as walleye and northern pike.
  • Create an adequate riparian buffer environment that supports lower water temperatures and native habitat for numerous wildlife species.
  • Provide natural green infrastructure that improves water quality in the creek.
  • Allow for public access within the project area.
  • Improve the sustainability of the shoreline environment.

It is the responsibility of the City of North Tonawanda (North Tonawanda Botanical Garden Organization – NTBGO) to maintain this park, which should be a considerably easier task moving forward due to the enhanced natural and self-sustaining form (gardening over mowing). Other park features include a gazebo and a public paddlesport launch on the western banks of the Erie Canal/Tonawanda Creek just north of East Robinson Street. New low-impact paths and interpretive signage will be implemented as part of the Living Shoreline Project. 

“Mother Nature is by far the best engineer and architect out there. Using innovative design strategies, we are mimicking nature and natural processes through the implementation of resilient shorelines,” said Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper’s Executive Director Jill Jedlicka, adding, “This site adds to the growing list of successful restoration projects in our region, that cumulatively have a positive impact on the health and quality of our freshwater resources and ecosystems. The work and jobs created by restoration activities like this help strengthen the region’s Blue Economy and improves the quality of life in our community.”  

Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO, said, “The Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper is making great progress in restoring the region’s shorelines to their natural states, improving water quality and reducing erosion and flooding. The Power Authority is proud to be a good neighbor through our support of its efforts in these key restoration initiatives as we are confident that the improvements will lead to a more resilient shoreline and a better experience for residents and visitors.”

Click to enlarge

“As the stewards of the New York State Canal system, the Canal Corporation is proud to collaborate on this significant habitat restoration project that will re-nourish and ensure the Erie Canal’s shoreline in North Tonawanda remains part of a healthy and vibrant ecosystem that wildlife and local visitors may enjoy for generations to come, said New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton.  

“The shoreline restoration project is the beginning of an effort to transform the entire 11-acre site into a sustainable habitat for native plants, birds, insects and animals,” said Chairman of the North Tonawanda Botanical Garden Organization Dave Conti. “The benefit of the sustainable habitat extends to residents and visitors by providing educational opportunities revealing the advantages biodiverse areas bring to the community.”   

This shoreline project will amplify the hard work by NTBGO in recent years to develop “a scenic destination along the Erie Canal for our community to enjoy.” NTBGO is currently in the process of raising funds to build a bee hive. Anyone that would like to donate to the cause can do so by visiting this page. You can also click here to view photos of the existing rain garden, butterfly garden, and other projects (see the blog). 

Living Shoreline Project participants include:

  • Greenway Ecological Standing Committee | Funder
  • Canal Corporation | Landowner
  • North Tonawanda | Collaborator & Land Manager
  • North Tonawanda Botanical Garden Organization | Project Partner & Steward
  • Wendel Architecture & Engineering | Design Consultant


Photos courtesy Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper

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, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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