Bringing Nature Downtown: A New Life for an Old Rail Corridor
This past Wednesday, on a cold and blustery morning, the Western New York Land Conservancy gathered some of Western New York’s most influential decision makers at Peg Overdorf’s Tewksbury Lodge on Ohio Street. The purpose was to unwrap a stunning new project, which if successful will help to transform a part of the region’s industrial past into a new green corridor that is already being compared to Manhattan’s world famous High Line.
The proposed trail would run along a former rail corridor that stretches one and a half miles from the Buffalo River near Solar City, to the DL&W Terminal downtown, just adjacent to Canalside.
Nancy Smith, Executive Director of the Western New York Land Conservancy, said that this is a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to bring a world class nature corridor to the heart of Buffalo. She said that the trail will run through neighborhoods adjacent to Larkinville including the Valley, the First Ward, and the Perry Neighborhood. “This will be an inspiring and environmentally friendly trail and linear park that is comparable to the High Line, Detroit’s Dequindre Cut, and Chicago’s 606, all beloved and world-famous destinations,” Smith told the enthusiastic gathering.
Congressman Brian Higgins agrees with her. Speaking from the podium, he said ”this project will be accomplished. The tremendous leadership from the Land Conservancy and the substantial support from the community, the NFTA, the Wilson Foundation, M&T Bank, and other funding sources will help to transform this former DL&W rail line into a special place that will help bring Buffalo toward a vision that we can all be proud of.”
Peg Overdorf, Executive Director of the Valley Community Association, said that “places like this can create a vibrancy to our neighborhood just as Buffalo River Fest Park and Mutual Riverfront Park have done. These parks have rid the neighborhood of blight and have been a stimulus for economic development while creating beautiful places for all to enjoy.”
Sara Heidinger, President of the Old Fist Ward Community Center, embraces what the corridor could add to the community. “Not only will it be a place to relax and enjoy the beautiful green paths, it will create a more walkable, bikeable comunity and connect neighborhoods together. Neighbors and visitors alike will be able to enjoy the paths through the seasons, as well as enjoy the birds, butterflies, and other wildlife that has take to this space as home. It will also provide ways to incorporate public art into the project.”
Other voices of support include NYS Senator Tim Kennedy, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Erie County Legislator Barbara Miller-Williams, Fillmore District Council Member David Franczyk, and Tom George, Director of Public Transit at the NFTA. George said that “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 the creation of public spaces in concert with future light rail service can provide great benefits to our community.”
Next steps for the project include additional fundraising, community visioning, and a high profile design competition which is being sponsored by M&T Bank.
Additional sponsors include the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, which was established in 1919 to enhance and encourage long-term philanthropy in the Western New York Community. They help to manage the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. legacy funds that are contributing to this project.
The Western New York Land Conservanc is a regional, not-for-profit land trust that permanently protects land with significant conservation value in Western New York.
They are seeking your input regards this project and have a survey on their website that they encourage you to fill out. Any questions or suggestions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (716) 687-1225.
They are also seeking tax-deductible contributions that will be used to match the M&T Challenge Grant. They must raise an additional $100,000 by the end of May 2018 in order to make the design competion a reality. You can contribute on their website or by sending a check payable to the Western New York Land Conservancy, P.O. Box 471 East Aurora NY, 14052.
The Western New York Land Conservancy plans to host a workshop regards this project in early 2018.
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