New plan for abandoned rail line near Downtown

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Build a ribbon of green to connect the community. That’s the bold vision for a project that would transform the old DL&W rail line into a linear park and greenbelt.

The Western New York Land Conservancy thanks it’s the perfect way to connect Canalside with the Buffalo River and Solar City.

“We’re gathered to celebrate an opportunity,” WNY Land Conservancy Executive Director Nancy Smith proclaimed during a Wednesday news conference.

Smith says people need to look past decades of decay and find hope for the elevated and abandoned rail line.

“Imagine connecting the visitors all the way down to the Buffalo River and Solar City. By working together with the corridor neighbors, the WNY Land Conservancy plans to connect an iconic community asset that will connect neighbors to neighbors and neighbors to nature,” Smith said.

She says the family-friendly park and nature trail will be good for the environment, the economy and the city. The design could be modeled after Chicago’s 606 or Toronto’s Bentway.

Longtime resident Sara Heidinger sees it happening. She’s the president of the Old First Ward Community Association. “We grew up in this tiny place that not a lot of people knew existed or maybe were afraid to come to. The idea that we could expand the park, make it safer, nicer, maybe add bathrooms — and I could walk from my house to Canalside — those things are exciting to me.”

The NFTA owns most of the land, but their represenatives appear to be on board with the park plan.

Congressman Brian Higgins is even more optimistic, declaring, “This project is going to get done!”

He believes it’ll take government and private money to make this happen. “A public and private partnership [can] turn this vision into something real, so that people in this community who have been denied access to their waterfront for decades will begin to feel the full potential of this great water front city once again.”

The land conservancy has created a survey to gauge support for the project.

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