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A work in progress

Buffalo’s developing shoreline provides important habitat

A whimbrel

Photo by Jay Burney


Canalside has re-created downtown Buffalo and is rightly attracting visitors to the city by the thousands. We should salute those who brought this vision to fruition and who continue to add attractions to the site. If you take the ferry across the river, however, you find yourself in an area that enhances the city in a different way—with several miles of parks instead of the condominiums originally proposed for these valuable public lands on the Outer Harbor.


Earlier this spring, I toured this miracle mile along the Lake Erie shore with Jay Burney, the man I consider our most important regional conservationist. There is rich variety here. Some of the parks are formal gardens with statuary, while others include service areas, restaurants, slides, and swings, as well as boat launching and docking facilities. But still others, about half of the entire acreage, are being kept as pristine as possible, with renovations confined to those that help wildlife. Humans are visitors who walk along specified pathways.


Yes, there are asphalt-based parking lots here that have served festivals on nearby trampled lawns, but there are also fenced-off woodlots, marshlands, and unmown meadows. These are already attracting birds and mammals, increasing the value of the shoreline as an important avian migration trap. For example, last fall, two birds seldom recorded in this region appeared there: a whimbrel and a loggerhead shrike.

A loggerhead shrike


Despite over twenty years of work devoted to saving and restoration, these parklands remain only about a third complete. For example, most of the soil has been dumped here over the years; it is not the original sand that should define the local biota—that appears in only a few areas. One of Burney’s pet projects is to recreate that sandy shoreline. He is convinced that once that is done, the rare Karner’s blue butterfly can be reintroduced.


This is indeed a work in progress. Visit it often so you can witness and support that progress over the years ahead. I believe that, in another decade, these valuable lands will compete with Erie Pennsylvania’s Presque Isle Park.


For more information about the Lake Erie waterfront visit ourouterharbor.org and friendsoftimesbeachnp.org.   


Read more from Gerry Rising here.


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