The Western New York Land Conservancy and its design partners – W Architecture, Hood Design Studio, and Green Shield Ecology – have presented a new concept vision for The Riverline. After four years of public engagement process, as well as refinements to initial concept designs and initial drafts, The Riverline appears to be emerging as a 100% unique “refuge” destination along the Buffalo River.
When it is complete, The Riverline (winding along a former rail corridor), will connect Canalside at the DL&W Terminal in downtown Buffalo to the Buffalo River across from Riverbend and Tesla. The underlying “refuge” component will ensure that visitors to the one-and-a-half-mile path will find a place of inspiration and solace, especially at a time when there is so much turmoil in the world. The pathway will pay homage to Buffalo legacy of an industrial boomtown, while refocusing on the city’s ability to reinvent itself as a place that cherishes the water (and Mother Earth). To that end, the design team has incorporated garden features and nature-based recreation throughout the green connector that ties together the Old First Ward, Perry, and Valley neighborhoods.
Similar to how Tifft and Times Beach Nature Preserves offer natural oases within the city limits (and Olmsted Parks for that matter), The Riverline will offer a number of nature-oriented spaces to reflect, engage, and reconnect with distinct placemaking environments, such as:
- The Del – where tight-knit neighborhoods come right up to the trail itself
- The Junctures – where the legacy of the railroad becomes a place of connection
- The Basswoods – where nature takes center stage. Entrances have also been designed to respect the character of the communities
Nancy Smith, the Executive Director of the Land Conservancy, said, “With these concept designs we’ve reached a significant milestone in the development of The Riverline. The input of community members and partners has been central to this accomplishment. We look forward with great enthusiasm to working with the community and bringing to life this design, centered on the idea of nature as a refuge.”
The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) – owner of The DL&W corridor property that hosts The Riverline – has been a key partner in being able to move forward with the project. About this partnership, Smith said, “We have been so pleased to coordinate how best to realize our joint visions for Buffalo: a thriving community where residents can access open space and the service they need.”
Buffalo has long been a city where the residents have been disconnected from the waterfront. In recent years, there have been stepped up efforts to not only reconnect people to water, but to clean up the waters that were forsaken for so long. These days, canoeing and kayaking on the Buffalo River is a regular occurence. There is a new generation of Buffalonians that has come to embrace the water. Many of the birds have returned, as has other wildlife. It’s certainly a different place than it was a few decades ago.
Advancements such as The Riverline not only captivate the imaginations of those who interact with the waterfront and the surrounding neighborhoods, they raise the bar for other projects in years to come. The pandemic has demonstrated just how valuable these types of outdoor experiences are to communities. More than ever, we need to be embracing our natural surroundings, in ways that we have only recently learned to fully understand and appreciate.
Funding for the Concept and Schematic Design phase comes in part through an Environmental Protection Fund grant (EPF #180842) administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Additional funding is provided by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York Blue Fund; KeyBank in partnership with the First Niagara Foundation; Moog Inc.; the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor’s IMPACT! Grant Program; the East Hill Foundation; Kathy Lasher and Scott Bieler; Peggy and Jay Elliott; Nancy and Tom Smith; and other individual community donors. The Land Conservancy continues to seek additional funding for The Riverline.
If you are interested in learning more about this project, or donating to create The Riverline, please visit the new website for The Riverline: theriverline.com. You can also reach out to the Land Conservancy at (716) 687-1225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lead image: Moore Street Gateway