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Editorial: Waterkeeper thinks big with plan for education center

Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper wants to build a center along the Buffalo River that would house an education center, laboratories and its offices. It seems a long way from turning into reality, but it is a nice idea.

Waterkeeper is a nonprofit started 29 years ago to save the Buffalo River, which was declared "dead" in 1967. Started as a group of dedicated volunteers, Waterkeeper removed toxic pollutants from the river, restoring the natural resource over the last three decades. It has also shifted the culture about the community's attitude and relationship to our waterways.

It has done so by changing the way people are connecting with the water, viewing the water and becoming stewards of the waterways. It is a generational change. Over the years, the organization evolved to a broader mission to "restore and protect our water" and surrounding ecosystems for future generations.

Waterkeeper’s notion for its Waterways Center includes a Great Lakes and environmental education center for grade school and high school students and university and post-graduate researchers. The center would include on-site laboratories. It would offer a program center and a home for Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper's offices.

Waterkeeper has a conceptual design, but it doesn’t have a location, blueprints, price tag or, most importantly, the money to build the center.

Executive Director Jill Jedlicka says the organization plans to "quietly" work with partners from the water-based business community, academic institutions and public and not-for-profit organizations to develop the plans.

It should be enough to win support from interested partners willing to submit proposals, open until Oct. 15, for developing and managing the center's construction and the funds to build. Jedlicka said of the Waterways Center: "It's more real than just an idea now."

Rep. Brian Higgins gives Waterkeeper credit for being a national model for how to reclaim waters. The organization has a great mission and a great track record. The proposed Waterways Center would be a real plus for Buffalo.

We hope it works out.

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