Site Analysis Tours were conducted along Two Mile Creek, the Niagara River, Erie Canal, and Ellicott Creek. The tours consisted of walking and boating excursions that allowed participants to see the sites up close and to discuss their conditions and opportunities. Each tour used a facilitation game to get the project team to become collaborative problem solvers.
Upon seeing the untapped potential of Ellicott Creek, the Steering Committee decided a tactical urbanism event would be a good opportunity for the community to see the creek in a new way. The “Crazy Creek Party,” complete with inner tubes and canoes, focused on leveraging both the ecotourism and natural conditions of the creek heading past, as well as identifying potential business development opportunities heading west where the Creek meets the Erie Canal. The family-friendly event had something for every visitor and partygoer and provided a venue for valuable discussions around balancing the health of the environment with commercial interests, and data collection about how often the creek is used by residents and visitors and for what purposes.
This engagement process formed the foundation for a “living document” style plan for the City of Tonawanda to reconnect its community to its waterways. This document paved the way for Tonawanda to pursue funding and plan the use of its existing resources for many years to come. Since the community engagement sessions, Tonawanda has received a special $2.5 million grant to reroute traffic through their downtown from a water edge road and convert the road into a water edge park with a newly created water edge pavilion. Additionally, the State chose to route its new Empire State Trail, now the longest contiguous trail in the state, through this newly created waterfront park.
Partnering with Joy Kuebler, they used her PLAYCE methodology in a playful placemaking approach to engage citizens with the LWRP process. Water is a vital and important part of Tonawanda. While industry uses the water less, the opportunities for recreation and commercial uses that leverage the water and lure and retain citizens are prevalent. Additionally, more than 75 families and individuals took part in the Niawanda Art Walk where Community Conversations took place about how they interacted with the water now and what they would like to see in the future.