Hoyt calls for adding park along channel
By SHARON LINSTEDT
News Staff Reporter
Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News
Land along the Black Rock Channel would become a park if arrangements and funding are worked out.
A state lawmaker proposes establishing a minipark on idle land along the Black Rock Channel.
Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo, wants to convert a landlocked stretch of land between Porter Avenue and the Peace Bridge into a linear park. The roughly quarter-mile strip of land, owned by the State Thruway Authority, rises up from water level to the Niagara Thruway.
"I envision it as a wonderful promenade along the channel, with terraced areas cut into the slope above," Hoyt said, noting it was once part of Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Front Park.
"It's a natural public asset that was stolen by the development of the I-190 and the Peace Bridge plaza. This is a way to get it back for the public to enjoy," Hoyt said.
He said he took Michael R. Fleischer, Thruway Authority executive director, on a tour of the potential park site last month and received an enthusiastic response to the idea. Hoyt said Fleischer was supportive of transferring control of the land to the Buffalo Olmsted Park Conservancy.
Hoyt said the proposal also has received a positive reaction from officials of the State Canal Corp., Erie County and the city.
"I can say with confidence that this is a project that has an excellent chance of becoming a reality, possibly as early as next year. It doesn't require a great deal of debate, study or bureaucratic evaluation," Hoyt said.
Phase One of the project, estimated to cost $500,000 to $750,000, would involve installing a paved pathway, which would connect to Riverwalk just north of Porter Avenue. The pathway would extend nearly 2,000 feet through the new park toward the Peace Bridge, where it would rejoin the waterfront trail.
Subsequent phases would involve building terraced overlooks into steeper sections of the land above the promenade. No price tag has been placed on that additional development.
The strip of land varies in width from a few dozen feet to more than 60 yards when vertical areas are included. It would be accessible only by foot, bike or boat, not motor vehicles.
"This would not only offer fantastic views of the waterfront, the Canadian shoreline and sunsets, it will also be a great vantage point for watching West Side Rowing Club regattas. It will be like a natural grandstand," Hoyt said.
The lawmaker said the Thruway Authority could transfer the land as early as next spring, with work on Phase One commencing next summer.
Waterfront activist Jason McCarthy, who is working with Hoyt on the plan, said the land offers a unique opportunity.
"It could be a real oasis for those who like to hike and bike, and it could be extended beyond the Peace Bridge at some point, opening up even more of the waterfront to the public," McCarthy said.