A nearly mile-long section of the Buffalo River is being transformed from an industrial wasteland into a greenway that beautifies the community, improves water quality and creates new wildlife habitat.
A stretch of the Buffalo River known as the River Bend was a heavily industrialized area for much of the 20th century. The Republic Steel and Donner Hanna Coke facilities operated there for several decades. Those factories were just two of many industrial operations that dominated the Buffalo River shoreline in the last half of the 20th century and left the river in ruin. The river caught fire in the 1960s and the federal government declared it a dead waterway. In 1987, the river was declared a Great Lakes Area of Concern. Since then, local nonprofit organizations and government agencies have worked together to clean up the river and make it a centerpiece of downtown Buffalo. A cleanup of industrial waste and pollutants at the River Bend site was completed in 2007, clearing the way for efforts to restore 10 acres of riparian habitat along a nearly one-mile long stretch of the river’s shoreline. Restoring natural habitat at the River Bend site was identified as a high priority in the Buffalo River Remedial Action Plan. The first phase of the project — which restored 2,800 feet of shoreline by removing invasive plants, cleaning up 1,200 cubic yards of debris and planting more than 2,000 native trees and other vegetation — was completed in 2013. Future plans call for planting another 750 trees at the site and eventually developing a trail system along the Buffalo River corridor. The trail would provide the community and visitors with a multi-use trail and public access to the waterway.
Resource Challenges Addressed
- Loss of fish and wildlife habitat
- Invasive species
- Low water quality
BUFFALO RIVER BEND RESTORATION PROJECT
Location: Buffalo, N.Y.
Approximate cost: $1 million, most of which was provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
Key partners: Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, New York Department of Environmental Conservation, Buffalo Urban Development Corporation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Forest Service
Types of jobs created: Biologists, ecologists, landscape architects, heavy equipment operators and general laborers. More than 50 local construction workers and professionals worked on the project.
Results and Accomplishments
The first phase of the project restored more than 2,800 linear feet of the River Bend by removing 1,200 cubic yards of debris and planting more than 2,000 native trees and other vegetation.