Written by Kevin Heffernan
Photo by Johannes Rapprich
Map Courtest Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper

For the fully stylized version of this article with additional illustrations, pick up a free physical copy of No Boundaries issue 5 anywhere in Buffalo or Rochester or review it here on issuu.

“Wow. Look at that view!” they all said, while heading southbound on the Skyway, balancing attention between the road and Lake Erie.

It is a good view. And for so many of us, it’s appreciated most from the Skyway, from the 190 South, or from someone else’s Instagram.

600 feet above sea level, we can view the inland ocean on our doorstep without fear that it’s a just a few years away from rising up and washing us away. Whether the rest of the country realizes that or thinks we’re in a permanent igloo is their problem. Right now, our waterways are all ours to take advantage of, and Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper is removing the obstacles to do so.

Your Car Shouldn’t be the Best Way to Enjoy the Water

We have an obsession with roads, do we not? When considering what area of our waterways we want to visit, we’ll ask “What highway is it off of? How close to the highway is it? Is there a parking lot nearby?” It’s as if we’d prefer all our access points to our waterways to double as truck stops.

If you’ve got young kids, or if it’s not easy for your to be mobile without your vehicle, then yes the water should be yours to enjoy too – and it certainly already is. But if you want to leave your car in the driveway or if you don’t have a car, it should be just as easy to get out there and enjoy what’s yours.

Courtesy Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper

Waterkeeper’s Blueway plan will increase waterfront access to a wide range of users including paddlers, boaters, bikers, anglers, tourists, and, our favorite, local residents.

From Waterkeeper’s Niagara River Greenway Commission

Project Consultation & Review Submission:

“An important component of the Buffalo Blueway is the identification of access points to fill existing gaps and connect communities that have been disproportionately cut off from the waterfront. All the Buffalo Blueway sites will be designed to provide universal access where possible. The expanding network of safe and visible public access opportunities along the waterways will be a direct physical connection to the Greenway and Shoreline Trails providing the community with opportunities to recreate both on and off the water.

“Blueway assets will be within and lead to the Niagara River Greenway. In the future, broader integration will be coming to The Great Lakes Seaway Trail, the Erie Canal Heritage Corridor, the Industrial Heritage Trail, the Underground Railroad, and historical Native American heritage corridors.”

Still Cleaning Up, For You and Our Wildlife

Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper has been working for three decades on getting our river systems and their tributaries cleaned up. Volunteers fueled a movement and the work warranted a more permanent organization with employees to advance these collaborative efforts. Cleveland gets the pollution jokes, but our Buffalo River used to be just polluted, just as dead. Since 1989, Waterkeeper’s efforts have restored it, protected it, and increased access to it. Kayaking around the silos wasn’t even a thing a short time ago. Now, you have their volunteers and their full-time staff to thank when you pack a couple beers and float around our incredible juxtaposition of industry and nature.

“Each site targeted for inclusion in the Buffalo Blueway network will incorporate the protection and restoration of natural resources and wildlife habitats to the greatest extent possible. This includes aquatic, riparian, and upland habitat opportunities. Clean and healthy waterways provide critically important habitat connectors for fish and wildlife allowing them access to key forage, breeding, and refuge areas.”

“Water defined our region’s history, and it will define its future.”