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Construction Begins on Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper’s Ellicott Island Bark Park Living Shoreline Project

AMHERST, NY – Construction has begun on Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper’s Living Shoreline Project on Ellicott Island Bark Park in Erie County’s Ellicott Creek Park. Heavy construction is expected to continue through early July, with plantings occurring throughout the 2024 growing season. Substantial completion of the project is anticipated to occur by October 2024.

The Living Shoreline design at the Ellicott Island Bark Park re-engineers approximately 15,000 sq. ft. of shoreline and riparian area to better cope with the ongoing active uses and water level fluctuations the site experiences. The project will utilize four nature-based strategies to create a functioning living shoreline along the southern tip of the island, and stabilize the water access area to improve water clarity at the popular access point.

With these components, BNW intends to:
  • Stabilize the rapidly eroding shoreline using bio-engineering techniques
  • Reduce stormwater pollution and erosion through green infrastructure practices
  • Remove invasive/non-native plant species and establish diverse native plantings
  • Create areas along the shore with conditions suitable for emergent vegetation establishment
  • Reduce turbidity within project boundaries and adjacent shoreline areas by creating a stabilized water access point for dogs

“So much of the Niagara River Watershed has experienced shoreline degradation and riparian habitat loss,” explained BNW Executive Director Jill Jedlicka. “Our Living Shorelines model can help restore these impairments and moreover, build resiliency for the coastal and climate challenges ahead. As always, we don’t do this work alone. We are grateful for our partners at the Erie County Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry and the NYS Canal Corp, funders in NYPA and NY Sea Grant, our trusted contractors in WSP Inc. and LDC Construction Inc, and of course, the stewards of this site going forward, Friends of Ellicott.”

Prior to revitalization efforts, the park was experiencing riparian habitat loss, rapid shoreline erosion, and high turbidity in shallow water areas due to several factors. High foot/paw traffic in riparian areas were resulting in vegetation loss, and persistent boat wakes throughout the summer were causing rapid erosion along the shoreline.

The impacts of these stressors were most apparent, and most severe, at the southern end of the island, which became the project focus area. After project implementation and establishment, native plantings will span the land-water interface and provide a wealth of environmental services to this area. Reduced erosion, nutrient uptake, stormwater retention, and overhanging vegetation will improve water quality and help combat the algae blooms that are common in the lower reaches of Tonawanda Creek.

In addition to water quality benefits, the project will also benefit the wildlife that rely on healthy shorelines to survive, such as freshwater mussels, warm water fish species, wading birds, waterfowl, beneficial insects, and pollinators.

Funding for this project has been provided by the New York Power Authority through the Niagara River Greenway Ecological Standing Committee and Niagara Relicensing Ecological Standing Committee. Additional support and funding provided by Erie County, and through an agreement with Cornell University in partnership with New York Sea Grant under Prime Agreement CM04068 from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

“Working with nature when managing our shorelines in an important approach to achieving multiple benefits—cultural, ecological, and physical. New York Sea Grant, in partnership with NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, is excited to bring funding opportunities to Erie County and partners to complete this shoreline work and protect our natural resources,” said Katherine Bunting-Howarth, JD PhDAssociate Director, New York Sea Grant.
“At Friends of Ellicott Inc., we are thrilled to witness the Living Shoreline Project coming to life at Ellicott Island Bark Park. Recognizing the urgent need for restoration at the point we affectionately call Turtle Landing, we lacked the resources for such a substantial endeavor. Following our initial efforts to stabilize the area, we were overjoyed when Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper stepped in to take our efforts to the next level. With their added resources & planning talents, we look forward to both stabilization and the restoration of a healthy habitat for wildlife without compromising access at this site,” said Friends of Ellicott President Genesa Glose. “The meticulous planning of the Living Shoreline Project has impressed us, considering factors like water access and the stunning sunset view from the site. This project exemplifies how public water access areas can be adapted to support wildlife rehabilitation while accommodating existing uses. By redirecting run off, stabilizing erosion, and meticulous landscaping, rehabilitation will be achieved without sacrificing the beloved access and views cherished by park visitors.”
Once the project is complete, Friends of Ellicott will monitor plant life at the site to prevent invasive species and partner with Erie County Parks, Recreation & Forestry to assist in maintaining the site as planned.
“Erie County Parks is proud to partner with Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper on this Living Shoreline Project at Ellicott Creek Park, which will have a significant impact on the resiliency, sustainability, and conservation of Ellicott Island,” said Troy P. Schinzel, Commissioner, Erie County Dept. of Parks, Recreation & Forestry. “Erie County Parks is committed to the sustainability of our 10,000 acres of parkland, as well as to the partnerships which ensure our parks continue to thrive. It is projects like this, and partners such as Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper and the Friends of Ellicott Island Bark Park which make this work possible and we are grateful to them, and to the other funders involved, for their dedication and contributions.”

DEC Region 9 Director Julie Barrett-O’Neill said, “Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper’s Ellicott Island Bark Park Living Shoreline project, supported through the Niagara River Greenway and Niagara Relicensing Ecological Standing Committees, will benefit the environment by improving water quality as well as riparian and aquatic habitat for native plants, fish, freshwater mussels, and wildlife within the Niagara River watershed.”

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