Lake Erie is Picture Perfect from Afar
When it comes to clean waters in WNY, we should all be aware of the ongoing sustainability efforts of Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper. The organization is ever-present these days, as it orchestrates monumental cleanups and pushes for stepped up clean water advocacy. While Waterkeeper is a high profile organization, there are other smaller groups that fight for similar causes. One of those groups is the Niagara Frontier Surfrider Foundation Chapter (NFSF).
Currently, regional members of the local Surfrider Foundation (in its second year) are looking to spread the good word about the organization, and how more people can join the effort to directly engage with our waterfront.
“The Surfrider Foundation is dedicated to the protection of the world’s oceans, lakes, waves and beaches for all people,” said Kevin Tocke, Chair of the Niagara Frontier Chapter. “We fight for plastic reduction, lake protection, beach access, coast and climate, and clean water. Our big, long-range Campaign is ‘Where’s the Beach?‘, which is part of the Surfrider ideology ‘The Beach Belongs to Everyone.’”
If you grew up in Buffalo, then you know that the American side of Lake Erie, close to the city, has essentially been considered “out of bounds” for residents, unless they happened to own a boat. We’ve been blocked off from our waters for the most part, until just recently. But even with efforts to reconnect people with the waterways, we are a long way off before we catch up with other cities that have much better access than we do.
In Buffalo, there are plenty of spots to view the waters of Lake Erie. At the same time, there are formidable boulder outcroppings, retaining walls, seawalls, etc., with very little naturalized shoreline. Even as we take steps toward reconnecting with the waterfront, it seems as if the efforts are designed more for recreational boaters than beach-goers, for example.
The Surfrider Foundation has adopted the 2-mile stretch of Route 5 by Hoak’s at Hamburg Town Beach.
“You may not know this but Buffalo is the only city on the Great Lakes without a Public Swimming Beach,” said Tocke, who worked with Surfrider Foundation in Portland, OR for almost 10 years, and decided to bring a Chapter to Buffalo. “Milwaukee has 5, Chicago 11, and so on. Access and accessibility are an issue here in Buffalo. It’s a project we would like to move forward with, but it will take a large grassroots effort to bring it to fruition.”
The grassroots effort that Tocke is referring to includes social events, fundraisers, tabling events, and information dissemination. All of these initiatives are being put in place to inform about the possibilities when it comes to properly engage with the waterfront.
We tend to take things for granted, as we examine the way that our waterfront behaves. That’s because we don’t remember a time when people effortlessly interacted with our waters. Whether it’s windsurfing, or simply wading in the water, the time has come to demand for more ways to interact with the waters of Lake Erie.
For anyone interested in learning more about this movement, the Surfrider Foundation meets monthly (every first Wednesday) upstairs at Hoak’s Restaurant (4100 Lake Shore Rd, Hamburg, NY 14075) on the lake at 7:00pm. The meetings are a great way to learn about upcoming social events, beach cleanups, and grassroots initiatives, while getting to know others who care deeply about WNY waterways.
For those who want to learn more about the organization, please visit www.surfrider.org, and/or Facebook at Surfrider Foundation Niagara Frontier Chapter.
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