Project partnership with City of Niagara Falls brings improvement to water quality, creation of fish and wildlife habitat, establishment of native plants
Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper has announced the completion of the Hyde Park Lake living shoreline project, a two-year effort in partnership with the City of Niagara Falls and the Niagara River Greenway Ecological Standing Committee. The project enhanced 600 linear feet of shoreline located near the Rose Garden on the eastern end of Hyde Park Lake.
Construction began late last fall, and was substantially completed this summer (in July). Hyde Park, also known locally as the "Jewel of Niagara Falls," was enhanced with the planting of more than 1,300 native plants, including trees, shrubs, perennials and aquatic vegetation along the shoreline that will help prevent erosion, improve water quality, and provide important wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities.
The combined improvements at this site are also intended to help to combat future occurrences of harmful algal blooms, which occurred in a portion of the lake in 2016.
"Life thrives where water meets the land, and the restoration at Hyde Park Lake is an excellent example of the multiple benefits that a living shoreline can create for wildlife and people," said Jill Jedlicka, executive director of Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper. "Hyde Park Lake is part of the Gill Creek freshwater system, which is surrounded by industrial and commercial spaces, and our project was designed to restore a segment of the shoreline of this impaired waterway, as well as improve water quality and the health of the surrounding ecosystem. We are grateful to our partners, the City of Niagara Falls and the Niagara River Greenway Ecological Standing Committee, for their collaboration on this project."
"Through the living shoreline project at Hyde Park Lake, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper and our partners at Niagara River Greenway have single-handedly restored a critical and symbiotic habitat that too many waterways are in danger of losing," said Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, chairman of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Cities Initiative. "Residents and wildlife alike will now be able to better enjoy the centerpiece of our state's second-largest municipal park for generations to come because of this collaborative process. I look forward to continuing this work throughout the Gill Creek corridor as we continue to grow and strengthen a blue economy within the City of Niagara Falls and beyond."
Shoreline habitats are some of the most ecologically productive places on Earth, where 90 percent of all lake and river life is born, raised and fed, making these improvements a critical aspect to a healthy lake system.
Hyde Park is a large municipal park offering multiple recreational opportunities, including tennis, baseball, bocce and golf. This living shoreline project along Hyde Park Lake will enhance the park experience for residents and visitors while improving water quality and providing critical habitat for wildlife species, including bats, warmwater fish, waterfowl, songbirds and amphibians.
Funded by the Greenway Ecological Standing Committee, through funds provided under the New York Power Authority relicensing agreement, the $220,000 living shoreline project encompasses the full expanse of the land-water interface, including aquatic, shoreline and upland habitats. Matching contributions to the project, provided by the City of Niagara Falls, include funding for landscape materials and the pedestrian walkway that encourages park visitors to experience the naturalized shoreline.
Chairman of the Greenway Ecological Standing Committee Timothy DePriest said, "Hyde Park Lake is a treasured gem of the Niagara River Greenway and, like all gems, needs a little polish once in a while. The living shoreline project that Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper recently completed has provided the ecological polish that was needed to bring the sparkle of natural beauty back to the lakeshore. What was once an eroded, muddy bank is now a vibrant riparian habitat that will be enjoyed by the wildlife that live there and the people who visit, contributing to the long-term vision for the Niagara River Greenway."
"The extensive living shorelines project has transformed a significant stretch of shoreline at Hyde Park Lake that will now feature a larger variety of important habitats, provide better support to native species, and help accomplish our regional ecological goals," NYPA CEO and President Gil C. Quiniones said. "The New York Power Authority is proud to support another key restoration of critical habitat through the Greenway Ecological Standing Committee, and we are confident that these improvements will lead to a more resilient shoreline and a better experience for residents and visitors."
Hyde Park Lake was identified as a top restoration priority due to the deteriorating conditions that included eroding banks, lack of vegetation, and encroachment of invasive species. The restored area is now filled with native sedges, cattails, willows and wildflowers. In addition to native plantings, project design included the creation of a gradual slope between the land and water. By restoring this connection, the lakeshore becomes more resilient to flooding and erosion, while also offering improved access to the water for both wildlife and park patrons.
As park visitors walk along the shoreline, they are able to experience the diverse nature of habitat types associated with living shorelines, including marsh, wetland, meadow and aquatic ecosystems.
Each of these habitats serves a certain purpose. Wetland and marsh areas help to improve water quality by filtering stormwater runoff before it enters the lake while adding oxygen to the water, improving its clarity and health. The restored conditions will help reduce the risk of algae blooms. The meadow provides critical habitat for pollinators and also helps to absorb runoff. Strategically placed logs and boulders provide important spawning, resting and feeding habitat for the important fishery found within the lake, while protecting the shoreline from erosive forces. Birds can also be seen utilizing these logs and boulders to perch and hunt in shallow water areas.
The City of Niagara Falls and Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper are working together to secure additional funds for expanded implementation of this project along the lake throughout Hyde Park and further into the Gill Creek corridor.
Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper's mission is to protect and restore local water and surrounding ecosystems for the benefit of current and future generations.