Urban Ecological Restoration Workshops @ Tifft Nature Preserve & Silo City

Silo City and Tifft Nature Preserve are basically linked by the Buffalo River. But there are other things that link the two sites, even though one is known for its industrial heritage and the other for its vital ecosystems.

At one time, these two waterfront locations were subjected to the harshness of industry, which polluted the lands and waters. The site of Tifft – formerly agricultural land, even became a dump, before becoming a nature reserve.

For years, a number of organizations have fought to restore the lands of Tifft and surrounding areas, which is why similar restoration efforts in Silo City are so imperative. These lands are interconnected, forming the Wetland Highlands, which is one of the most productive ecological geographic areas in all of WNY, according to Maris Grundy (Director of Education at Silo City Lyceum).

To gain additional traction, restoring wetlands by eradicating invasive plant species and planting native species, Grundy helped build a team that conducted a series of urban ecological restoration workshops. Other team members include Zach Woodrich (steward at Tifft Nature Preserve), Priscilla Titus (ecologist), and Joshua Smith (director of ecology at Rigidized Metals/Silo City). The restoration workshops are thanks to a Greenway grant, which aims to help maintain a sense of natural balance for plants and animals, while protecting sensitive land from water filtration that has been subjected to so many abuse over the years.

The abuse came from the industry, of course. But it has also come at the hands of invasive species such as reeds, common and shiny buckthorn and Japanese knotweed. Once these invasive plants are removed, the native species return, helping to restore the lands inhabited by all manner of native wildlife in WNY.

“One of the reasons workshops are so important is that they teach people experientially,” Grundy said. “People will tell us, ‘You’re reducing things!’ – the signage we put up is not as effective as the hands-on workshops that teach people what is going on. The restoration workshop is half a day – from 9 am to 1 pm. We start the morning at Tifft, doing some restoration planting. It’s a great way for people to learn the importance of different plants and effective strategies. Then we head to Silo City where people can see the greenhouse (hoop house). It is a native plant nursery, with tens of thousands of plants. The greenhouse grows for Tifft and Silo City, but it also grows for a number of other locations in Buffalo.

Grundy told me that the workshops provide a very basic experience for people, whether they’re looking to get involved in green organizations and efforts, or are just home gardeners. It’s a lesson in how to propagate native plants, identify invasive species, and a general overview of regional restoration efforts.

“The majority of people who have attended the workshops so far are students who want to get their hands dirty, artists who work with landscapes, and people who are interested in social and environmental justice,” Grundy said. “Rick Smith (Silo City and Rigidized Metal Works) envisioned it as an experiential way to engage people outside of the academic setting. The non-profit organization was launched in 2018. We are just starting to revive things since the pandemic. It’s about peripatetic walking and learning (hence the name Lyceum) – a number of our events involve poetry, photography and ecology. Next year we hope to organize a week-long ecology conference.

For those interested in learning more about the real Buffalo – the behind-the-scenes efforts that are being made to restore the riparian lands, and beyond, these workshops are very beneficial. Not only will they teach people about their connection to the planet, but they will also provide insight into Buffalo’s history, as a natural treasure that was compromised, but is now bouncing back.

To register for one of the workshops (see below). All workshop information and details will be emailed back to attendees, prior to the events.

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