$6.5 million grant will connect and renovate 750-mile trail from NYC to Niagara Falls

Back in January of 2017, the Empire State Trail was announced as a new initiative designed to place New York State at the forefront of national efforts to enhance outdoor recreation, community vitality and tourism development.

Approximately 400 miles of the trail already exist in discrete, disconnected segments. When completed by the end of 2020, the Empire State Trail will be a continuous 750-mile route spanning the state from New York City to Canada, and Buffalo to Albany, creating the longest multi-use state trail in the nation.

Now, on September 18, 2018, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has received a $6.5 million grant from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation to expand the Empire State Trail initiative in Western New York.

The grant will be used to enhance the trail with gateways, signage, kiosks, bike racks and other amenities that will make it a world-class destination. The grant will also be used to help complete the Shoreline Trail and add trail amenities from Buffalo to Niagara Falls.

The Empire State Trail provides residents and visitors with expanded access to New York’s world-class natural beauty, driving tourism and economic activity to communities in every corner of the state,” New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said. “This significant investment from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation will further enhance our State’s picturesque trails, positioning Western New York and our entire state as a leading destination for outdoor recreation.

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Rose Harvey and Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation President and CEO David Egner visited Devil’s Hole State Park announced the grant for the WNY Greenways Initiative, which includes investments in the Empire State Trail, the Niagara River Greenway and the Shoreline Trail. The $6.5 million grant funding will be administered through the Natural Heritage Trust, a New York State public benefit corporation, and will result in more than 20 miles of regional trail improvements, five Empire State Trail “Gateway” trailheads and 90 miles of trail amenities along the Empire State Trail corridor.

Niagara River Greenway Executive Director Gregory Stevens said, “The improvements to these trails will help connect the Niagara River Greenway and create livable communities in urban, suburban and rural communities from Buffalo to Rochester and along the Niagara River, one of the greatest natural resources in the country. Connecting our communities and encouraging healthy activity is paramount to the quality of life in Western New York and New York State and we are beyond grateful to the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation for their support of this work. Their support is empowering us to drive these long talked about projects forward.”

The Foundation’s funding builds on New York State’s $23 million investment to improve the Empire State Trail from Buffalo to Rochester and to enhance outdoor recreation opportunities in the Niagara Gorge.

The projects being funded include:

  • Empire State Trail: $3.7 million to improve 13.5 miles of the Empire State Trail; create four gateways, which will be formal trailheads in Buffalo, Lockport, Tonawanda and Rochester; and install trail user amenities along the 90-mile route from Buffalo to Rochester. This grant will leverage $6.58 million in state funding.
  • Niagara River Greenway Shoreline Trail: $1.6 million to complete 7.4 miles of the Shoreline Trail in the Wheatfield/LaSalle sections, which will connect Niagara Falls to the Tonawandas. The grant will also provide a new trail connection and Gateway in the Tonawandas. Construction of the new trail segments completes a significant portion of the Niagara River Greenway and will connect the Shoreline Trail to the Empire State Trail to New York City. This grant will leverage $7.19 million in state funding.
  • Devil’s Hole State Park: $1.1 million in matching funds to provide a new Gateway and reconstruction of the historic stairways and trails along a section of the Niagara River Gorge. This grant will leverage $1.4 million in state funding.

Senator Chris Jacobs said, “My district will benefit greatly from the improvements made to the 13.5 mile stretch of the Empire State Trail, and countless New York State residents, visitors and communities will benefit from the wonderful experiences and economic impact that will come when the trails are completed.

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster concluded, “The generous gift announced today from the Ralph Wilson Foundation will only help to enhance Governor Cuomo’s strategic vision of interconnected trailways and parks, essentially closing the gap from Niagara Falls to New York City for the millions who visit every year. Thanks to this visionary project now connecting the Niagara River Greenway with the Empire State Trail, everyone from the most experienced to leisurely recreators can take advantage of the natural beauty right here in our own backyard and beyond.

Photo of Niagara Falls, NY (from Canada) by Storm Cunningham.

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