John, our Director of Photography, flew home early in the morning and then traveled on to California for a delayed and much-deserved vacation.
The rest of us, however, remained in Western New York and had the pleasure of meeting with Buffalo native and community activist Peg Overdorf, a driving force behind local efforts to revitalize the city’s waterfront.
Overdorf’s “real job” is as Executive Director of the Valley Community Association, a social service organization that provides programs for seniors, youths and others, all aimed at improving the social well-being of local residents.
A native of Buffalo and the Valley Neighborhood she serves, Overdorf has dedicated her life to bringing the riverfront area back from decades of neglect.
“You really couldn’t get near the river,” said Overdorf, explaining that years of junk, trash, and abandoned buildings were barriers to access. “The street was strewn with industrial debris.”
Then, about 10 years ago, Overdorf came up with the idea of creating a park on the Buffalo River where concerts, parties and cultural events could be held.
“Everybody thought I was crazy,” said Overdorf. “Even people who work for me thought I was wasting my time.”
But Overdorf persisted.
Now, 10 years, 17 grants and more than $5 million in funding later, Buffalo River Fest Park is a reality and the city’s riverfront is undergoing resurgence.
Kayakers splash in the river. Joggers, bikers locals and tourists mingle along the banks. New condominiums, restaurants and bistros are popping up, one of which is the Tewksbury Lodge. The owner? None other than Peg Overdorf.
“The rewarding aspect,” Overdof said, “has been the revitalization of the old neighborhood.”
Buoyed by Peg’s positivity and community spirit, the team piled into the Suburban and drove Southwest out of Buffalo toward our next stop, Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio just outside of Cleveland.
For photos of our time in Buffalo, please visit our Buffalo River gallery page.