Erie County parks, partners join forces on Bennett Beach restoration project
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was recently joined by Deputy Parks Commissioner Dan Glowacki, County Forester Ed Kowalski, members of the county Department of Environment and Planning, Erie County Soil and Water Conservation District Field Manager Mark Gaston, and representatives of the Erie County Water Quality Committee, the Alliance for the Great Lakes, and HSBC at Bennett Beach in Evans to take part in a Restoration Project to beautify the beach and park while helping to protect it. Bennett Beach is a passive park owned and operated by Erie County, consisting of approximately 50 acres of Lake Erie beachfront with some of the last remaining natural sand dunes in the area, as well as open parkland space and woodlands. Big Sister creek bisects the property.
“This Restoration Project is a tremendous way to care for and enhance Bennett Beach and the surrounding parkland, and I thank our partners and volunteers who came together and worked so hard at this beautification effort,” Poloncarz said. “Not only will this Project help to create a more beautiful beach and park for all users, it will help to protect this natural asset into the future.”
Improvements already begun at the Bennett Beach site include the creation of a low-mow area, parking lot improvements, and the demolition of an old municipal bath house wall that for decades was not only an obstruction but created a nuisance for the public and staff alike. The Restoration Project builds on this momentum as volunteers planted beach grass to stabilize a windward portion of the beach’s eroding sand dune, planted Dogwood and Streamco Willow trees to stabilize the bank of Big Sister creek along the back side of the dune, removed invasive Japanese Knotweed from the area, planted wildflowers and installed bluebird boxes in the low-mow area to improve habitat, and planted trees in the park area for increased shade.
“Protecting the Great Lakes is an all hands on deck effort,” Nate Drag, New York outreach coordinator for the Alliance for the Great Lakes, said. “I am pleased to have a business partner in HSBC that recognizes the immense value that Lake Erie brings to the Buffalo area. Bennett Beach in Erie County is a place where volunteers can see the impacts of restoring the Great Lakes firsthand.”
The Project is a combined effort between the Erie County Parks Department, the Alliance for the Great Lakes, HSBC, Erie County Soil and Water District, Erie County Water Quality Committee, and the Lake Erie Watershed Protection Alliance.
“This project is an excellent example of what can be accomplished through regional cooperation,” Commissioner of the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning Maria Whyte said. “LEWPA, which includes representatives from Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, and Erie Counties, is bringing communities together to protect our vital Great Lakes resource.”
“HSBC is committed to supporting projects that help make a difference globally as well as locally, in the communities where we work and live,” said Stuart Alderoty, executive vice president and general counsel, HSBC North America Holdings Inc. “The Alliance and Erie County are dedicated to protecting one of the greatest natural resources in Western New York and the world, and we’re delighted to join their preservation efforts.”
Funding for the Project came from several sources. The Erie County Water Quality Committee committed $400 for the purchase of beach grass and wildflower seed; the Erie County Soil and Water Conservation District provided the Dogwood and Streamco Willows from their plantation, as well as bluebird boxes and staff time for the volunteer effort; the Erie County Parks Department provided labor and equipment, including a vehicle to haul away the knotweed; and the Great Lakes Alliance provided coordination for the event, along with securing a grant from Home Depot for additional supplies. Additionally, LEWPA secured $1,150 in grant funds from Scott Naturals to support the tree plantings, while HSBC contributed $1,500 to add additional shrub plantings.