New York Construction Report staff writer
Construction has started on enhancements at Erie County’s Thomas F. Higgins Riverfront Park adjacent to the Bailey Avenue bridge, at the confluence of the Buffalo River and Cazenovia Creek. Work is estimated to be completed before the summer water season ends.
Waterkeeper contracted with Anchor QEA for design and Scott Lawn Yard for construction. Enhancements planned include debris deflectors, a stabilized shoreline using pinned ledge rock, an at-grade culvert to connect the Buffalo River to an existing wetland, a graded paddle sport egress point, benches, educational signage and a blueway marker that’s easy to spot from the water.
Funded with a grant from Empire State Development, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper’s Buffalo Blueway project enhances public access to our waterways by creating a water-based trail system that also connects to the land-based Greenway system.
“This Higgins Park access project will complement the successful openings of the Ohio Street and Red Jacket Park sites last year,” said Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper Executive Director Jill Jedlicka. “For the first three decades of our existence, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper worked tirelessly to lead the cleanup partnership efforts that resulted in a once-dead Buffalo River becoming a thriving, vibrant ecosystem that is now being activated with recreational activity from locals and tourists alike.
“Supporting the growth of the region’s sustainable blue economy continues to be a goal of our ongoing environmental restoration work and, by offering universal access to our waterways through the blueway system, these kinds of projects will continue to accelerate economic activity for our entire waterfront.”
In January 2017, New York state announced a $10 million award to Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper in an effort to expand and enhance waterfront access. Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper’s Buffalo Blueway project aims to connect a network of public access points located strategically near existing sites and attractions along Lake Erie, the Niagara River and Buffalo River corridors in order to increase recreation and tourism, and spur economic development.
Several enhancement projects have been implemented, including enhancements at Buffalo RiverWorks, Wilkeson Pointe, Mutual Riverfront Park, Ohio Street and Red Jacket Park. The site enhancements include the Buffalo River’s first ADA-accessible paddle launch dock, a massive public art mural, new seating and parking areas, new native planting areas, debris deflectors, new walking paths, new ADA-accessible fishing access, Blueway-specific metal markers and interpretive and safety signage, and an interactive Buffalo Blueway website with maps, information and a trip planner (www.buffaloblueway.com).
After Higgins Park is complete, Waterkeeper’s next Buffalo Blueway construction projects will be enhancing public access at the NYS DEC Harlem Road Fishing access site, enhancing public access at Seneca Bluffs Park, and installing a blueway site at the newly reimagined Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park.