Public access enhancements will be complete this summer at Erie County park on Buffalo River
Submitted by Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper
Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper continues to enhance public access to our Western New York waterways with the continued expansion of the “Buffalo Blueway” this summer. Construction has begun 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. Construction is estimated to be completed before this summer water season ends, and visitors will find easier fishing access and recreational amenities once complete.
Waterkeeper contracted with Anchor QEA for design of the project at Higgins Park, and Scott Lawn Yard for the construction. The enhancements will include debris deflectors, as well as 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.
“Thanks to our partners at Empire State Development and Erie County, our vision and implementation of the Buffalo Blueway continues to progress. This Higgins Park access project will complement the successful openings of the Ohio Street and Red Jacket Park sites last year,” Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper Executive Director Jill Jedlicka said. “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.”
Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said, “With Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper at the helm, and supported by state funding, this new Buffalo Blueway project will increase public access to Western New York’s greatest asset – its waterfront. Once complete, the Higgins Park blueway site will be the latest in a fleet of Buffalo Blueway projects that are improving the area’s quality of life, increasing recreation and tourism and, in turn, helping to boost the regional economy.”
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, “Increasing public access to our waterfront is always something to be pursued and is something that parkgoers and nature enthusiasts increasingly desire. We are blessed in Erie County with a rich and diverse natural environment that includes copious freshwater assets to be explored, navigated and appreciated. This investment (in) Higgins Park adds another opportunity for individuals and families to enjoy our waterfront. I thank our partners for their work in in this project, so that all Western New Yorkers can benefit from it this summer.”
Commissioner Troy P. Schinzel said, "The Parks Department is grateful and appreciative of great community partners like Waterkeeper. Erie County Parks has made huge investments in our parks, particularly our habitat parks like Higgins Parks. These projects bring vitality and restoration to the natural park environments, and much-needed natural recreation opportunities to the local community, as well. Our partners, such as Waterkeeper, are a big part of that success."
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.
Since then, numerous 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.
More About Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper
Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper is a community-based nonprofit organization that protects and restores our waters and surrounding ecosystems for the benefit of current and future generations. For 30 years, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper has been the guardian of Western New York's fresh water, protecting clean water, restoring the health of ecosystems, connecting people to the water and inspiring economic growth and community engagement.
For more information, visit www.bnwaterkeeper.org.
For more information on the Erie County Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry, visit