The Riverline, a project seeking to transform the former DL&W rail corridor into a 1.5-mile urban nature trail along the Buffalo River, got some added heft Monday when it became part of the High Line Network.
The Western New York Land Conservancy-led initiative became one of 15 new members to join the 39-member alliance of organizations that are turning underused and abandoned areas into public green spaces. Members include the High Line in New York City, Dequindre Cut in Detroit, Rail Park in Philadelphia and the Harbor District Riverwalk in Milwaukee.
“Member projects are instrumental in reshaping the landscape of our cities and offering residents wonderful new natural spaces to explore," the Conservancy’s Executive Director Nancy Smith said. "Although we have plenty of work left to do to make The Riverline a reality, as a High Line Network member, we look forward to exchanging ideas, knowledge, and inspiration with our peers from across North America.”
The Riverline would run from Canalside to South Buffalo. Its selection coincides with the release of a report outlining strategies for the nature walk to benefit the surrounding diverse neighborhoods. It came from a yearlong planning effort with the community and nonprofit and agency partners, including the University at Buffalo Regional Institute.
Rep. Brian Higgins, a backer of the project, called the latest development a good sign for the project's progress.
“Under the stewardship of the Western New York Land Conservancy, The Riverline has emerged as a unifying project — bridging together people and nature, our history and future, Buffalo’s neighborhoods and waterfront," Higgins, D-Buffalo, said.
"Inclusion of The Riverline in the High Line Network builds additional connectivity to premier projects across this country and beyond," he said.
Other new members of the High Line Network include:
• Town Branch Park, Lexington, Ky.: The transformation of a parking lot into an unprecedented signature park in the heart of downtown Lexington.
• Bergen Arches, Jersey City, N.J.: The Erie Railroad’s milelong, underused railroad trench that once served four passenger rails is to be converted into a shared-use nature path on the East Coast Greenway.
• Destination Crenshaw, Los Angeles: A 1.3-mile-long outdoor art and culture experience celebrating the 200-plus years of black activism in one of the largest black communities west of the Mississippi River.
• Great River Passage, St. Paul, Minn.: A 1.5-mile promenade connecting a series of public spaces, civic landmarks and development sites along downtown Saint Paul’s river bluff, creating a vibrant riverfront and stimulating economic development.
• Indianapolis Cultural Trail, Indianapolis, Ind.: An 8-mile biking and walking trail connecting all six of the city's cultural districts, reusing streets, former vehicle travel lanes and parking lanes to create a public linear park and bike path.
The High Line Network news release announcing its new members described Buffalo's project this way:
"The Riverline, Buffalo, NY: The transformation of the former DL&W rail corridor along the Buffalo River into a vibrant and engaging nature trail everyone can enjoy — right in the city, only minutes from downtown."
Mark Sommer covers preservation, development, the waterfront, culture and more. He's also a former arts editor at The News.