Outer Harbor Development

New Shoreline Trail in Buffalo’s Outer Harbor Open to Public

Greenway Nature Trail

A $13.5 million environmental restoration project to improve access to Buffalo’s waterfront is now open to the public, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis announced today. DEC and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) worked closely together to turn a previously unusable and inaccessible stretch of shoreline into a clean and scenic “Greenway Nature Trail” for public use along a prime section of the Outer Harbor waterfront.

The Greenway Nature Trail, also called the “Greenbelt,” stretches 6,400 feet along Lake Erie’s shoreline from the former Pier restaurant to the Terminal B building of Buffalo’s old port facilities, and connects to the already existing bike path along Fuhrmann Boulevard.

“This site has gone through a transformation - from an environmental wasteland, standing as a barrier between the Buffalo community and the Lake Erie waterfront, to a spectacular green space and recreational resource,” Commissioner Grannis said. “The Outer Harbor’s make over will help draw more people to the waterfront and stimulate further revitalization around one of Buffalo’s greatest natural assets. Cleaning up this site so that Western New Yorkers can reconnect with their natural surroundings is one more example of how, under Governor David A. Paterson, New York State’s environmental programs are encouraging green and healthy communities.”

Gregory Stamm, NFTA Chairman said: “Our presence here today signifies that we are making tangible progress toward developing our waterfront. The completion of the Greenway Nature Trail permanently dedicates beautiful lakeside green space for public access from this day forward. This is an important step of many that needed to be taken to revive our waterfront.”

“The Greenbelt preserves the water’s edge for public park space, makes adjacent land more attractive for future development, and offers residents another new opportunity to enjoy Buffalo’s waterfront,” said Congressman Brian Higgins. “This project in conjunction with the Outer Harbor Parkway project under construction now provides unprecedented access to this waterfront stretch. With this momentum, in just 18 to 24 months residents will have what they demanded and deserve -- a completely transformed Outer Harbor with beautiful boardwalks, bike and pedestrian paths, recreational space, fishing piers accompanied by an efficient and attractive roadway to take them there.”

“I commend DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis, Congressman Brian Higgins and the NFTA for working together to achieve this incredible outcome, the Greenway Nature Trail on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor,” said Mayor Byron W. Brown. “With this great achievement, we again mark significant progress in the redevelopment of Buffalo’s waterfront, making this area more accessible to the public, improved environmentally and linking this transformed waterfront area of the Outer Harbor to existing bike paths and the ongoing Outer Harbor Parkway project. Working together, with partners that are committed to the shared goal of improving and strengthening our city’s greatest natural asset, we are fulfilling what generations of city residents have long desired in their waterfront.”

The Greenway trail is a portion of a 120-acre parcel of land along Buffalo’s Outer Harbor that is currently owned by the NFTA. Beginning in the mid-19th Century, the land was artificially created by dredging soils from the bottom of the Buffalo Outer Harbor and depositing the material along the shoreline, a practice that ran until the mid-1960s. The soils, dredged from the harbor shipping channels, were contaminated from heavy industry that once existed along the waterfront. The site also contained municipal ash and construction disposal debris.

In 2002, the site was accepted into the DEC’s Environmental Restoration Program (ERP), which provides grants to local governments to reimburse cleanup activities. ERP grants cover up to 90 percent of on-site eligible costs and 100 percent of off-site eligible costs for site investigation and remediation activities. DEC provided $12.1 million in ERP funding to NFTA for the cleanup project, with additional funding secured by Congressman Higgins through federal highway programs.

Under DEC oversight, NFTA remediated contaminated soils along the shoreline and stabilized the shoreline slope with a heavy stone embankment to prevent erosion. The project also included ecological improvements along the shoreline and within the bay area known as the Bell Slip, such as the construction of shallow-water fish habitat that is conducive to spawning for local fish species. NFTA also planted native vegetation along both sides of the pathway to attract local wildlife.

Please e-mail your comments regarding the development process to outerharbor@nfta.com