DOWNTOWN BUFFALO HAS BEEN EXPERIENCING AN EXHILARATING RENAISSANCE THESE PAST FEW YEARS, EVIDENCED BY THE CRANES IN THE AIR, AN EVER-BUSTLING WATERFRONT, AND A BOOM IN SEASONAL FESTIVITIES.
Along with the redevelopment and refining of community spaces have come new venues for healthful outdoor activities.
Buffalo’s Olmsted-designed public parks, longstanding exercise venues, continue to provide excellent running routes among their man-made green spaces. In North Buffalo, Delaware Park’s ring road, encircling soccer fields, a public golf course, and tennis courts, is a 1.76-mile loop with some gentle inclines. Walkers and runners are always seen on the road, adding to the ultra-friendly vibe of the park that also offers views of the Buffalo Zoo and some of its inhabitants.
South Buffalo has two Olmsted-designed parks with picturesque ring roads for runners and walkers, as well as golf, tennis and basketball facilities. South Park (located on South Park Avenue near Ridge Road) features a 1.44-mile running path encircling the grounds of Erie County Botanical Gardens, a public golf course, and a lovely pond.
Cazenovia Park, with entrances on Abbott/Potters Road, Seneca, and Cazenovia Streets, sports a 1.28-mile running pathway. Three other Olmsted parks in the city limits—Martin Luther King, Jr. Park, Front Park, and Riverside Park—are heavily used, safe, and close at dusk.
Buffalo’s newest parks, both located on the Outer Harbor across from Canalside and downtown Buffalo, are Times Beach Nature Preserve and Wilkeson Pointe. Both are located along two-lane Fuhrmann Boulevard and are approximately ten minutes from downtown Buffalo. Times Beach has several trails crisscrossing its fifty acres, boardwalks overlooking natural views, and blinds for spying migrating birds. A paved and well-maintained bike path along Fuhrmann is always busy with walkers, runners, and cyclists. Kayakers, fishers, and wind-surfers can always be seen on the water in warm weather months—and often even during the winter.
Across Route 5, Tifft Nature Preserve, also located on Fuhrmann Boulevard, has acres to hike year-round. Jogging, biking, and dog-walking are not allowed, and picnicking is restricted to an area near the front entrance to the preserve. In wintertime, Tifft’s trails are excellent for snowshoeing (rentals available) and cross-country skiing.
Fun-loving Canalside Buffalo has become a destination for outdoor recreation in all four seasons. In wintertime ice skating, curling, and ice-biking (rentals available) are available on the frozen canals. In warmer months, the same man-made waterways are filled with paddle boats (also for hire) that come in adult and kid sizes: a small family fits comfortably on the adult-sized boats. Rentals begin at $5 for 20 minutes.
Free exercise classes are offered on Canalside’s wide and sunny boardwalk nearly daily in temperate months. Canalsidebuffalo.com lists all the classes, which are all usually well-attended; at a recent barre class, about fifty lined up along the boardwalk’s railing to stretch and relevé. For first-timers, the boardwalk begins under the Skyway and continues to the west near Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park.
The rental headquarters for Water Bikes of Buffalo can be found underneath the Skyway. The bikes provide an excellent workout, and are available in single and tandem models.
As for kayaking, one of the area’s most popular water sports, there are several places to paddle your private or rented vessel. A free launch site is located at the foot of Hamburg Street in Buffalo’s Old First Ward. Buffalo Harbor Kayak, open daily, rents single or tandem kayaks—as well as stand-up paddle boards—for tours around the river lasting an hour or half-day. Other launch points in Buffalo include Black Rock Canal Park, River Fest Park (Old First Ward), Erie Basin Marina, Small Boat Harbor, and LaSalle Park.
Buffalo Riverkeeper arranges tours for cyclists and hikers regularly: all of their tours are free and open to the public. Bike tours last about two hours and meet at Canalside; their online registration form is mandatory. Riverkeeper’s hikes take place just outside of Buffalo; check their website (bnriverkeeper.org) for all their water-focused events.
Blue Bikes are available for renting and riding at Canalside. Most of the bikes are sensible, three-speed models and there are a few adult trikes to rent. All Blue Bikes come with helmets and locks but baskets are an extra $5. A new feature on the waterfront is a bike ferry: for $1 (payable upon boarding) riders can cross from Canalside to the Fuhrman Boulevard bike path.
Wise Western New Yorkers take advantage of whatever weather blows into town, heading outdoors for sporting activities in all seasons. There is now a greater abundance of sporting choices for activity on land or water than ever before.
Writer/photographer Nancy J. Parisi is a resident of the Old First Ward and a longtime contributor to Forever Young and Buffalo Spree.