Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

May 31, 2022

Dan Keefe
(518) 486-1868 |

Habitat Projects in State Parks' Niagara Region Win Awards for Engineering Excellence from Statewide Engineering Council

WSP USA Inc. recognized by The American Council of Engineering Companies of New York for projects in Buckhorn Island and Beaver Island State Parks

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation (OPRHP) announced that two habitat restoration projects were recognized for engineering excellence at Buckhorn Island State Park and Beaver Island State Park of Grand Island, NY. Two projects were recently recognized by The American Council of Engineering Companies of New York (ACEC New York), a coalition of nearly 300 consulting engineering firms across New York State, in their 2022 Engineering Excellence Awards announced this April.  


"We strive to construct top quality engineering projects that improve the health of the natural environment of State Parks, increase our resilience to climate change, and support outdoor recreational experiences for park visitors," said State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid. "The award-winning mapping and design work from WSP USA Inc. for the projects at Beaver Island and Buckhorn Island State Parks is evidence of that commitment. We are pleased to support these projects in NY State Parks." 


WSP USA Inc., a consulting engineering firm for State Parks, received a Platinum Award in Surveying and Mapping Technology for their mapping contributions to the Burnt Ship Creek Habitat Enhancement Project at Buckhorn Island State Park. The project involved innovative drone-based mapping technology that expediated preliminary construction logistics without physically impacting sensitive marsh habitat. Drone mapping during construction also captured the efforts to improve aquatic connectivity within the project area, which greatly benefits the important marsh ecosystem within the park. The Niagara River Corridor is an Audubon Important Bird Area of global priority, due in part to a remarkable diversity of waterfowl.  


WSP USA Inc. also received a Gold Award in Water Resources for their contributions to the East River Marsh Habitat Enhancement Project at Beaver Island State Park. NY State Parks contracted WSP USA Inc. to design plans and specifications, develop permit applications, and provide bidding and engineering support during construction of a habitat project that built barrier rock reefs, restored the Niagara River shoreline, and expanded existing trails in the park. The rock reefs serve to limit erosion of the shoreline and provide areas of calm water for paddlers, native plants, and fish habitat. Native plantings and fish structures were also used to restore shoreline habitat. Trails near the shoreline were expanded and restored, allowing for safer and more enjoyable walkways for bird watching and other recreational activities.   

"Both the Burnt Ship Creek Habitat Enhancement and East River Marsh Habitat Enhancement projects represent prime examples of how multi-party collaboration, shared investment, technology, ecology, and engineering intersect for enhancing and restoring valuable Niagara River aquatic and off-channel marsh habitat.  These projects exemplify the OPRHP's principles of service to people, preservation and conservation, and leadership.  The projects have already resulted in substantive benefits for regional fish and wildlife, as well as for increasing recreational opportunities for all New Yorkers.  These projects will increase the resilience, function, and productivity of the Niagara River system for generations to come." Kris Erickson, Senior Lead Consultant, Habitat Restoration Specialist, WSP USA 

Both projects were funded from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). The two projects are part of a $11.2 million GLRI grant awarded to NY State Parks for multiple projects in the Niagara River "Area of Concern" (AOC), which was designated by the EPA in 1987 due to environmental degradation. The Burnt Ship Creek, East River Marsh, and other habitat restoration projects support the Beneficial Use Impairment (BUI) delisting process within the Niagara River AOC, specifically as it relates to the "Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat" BUI. Cumulatively, these multiple projects will have restored and enhanced over 58 acres of wetland and over 12,000 feet of shoreline on the Niagara River.


Buckhorn Island State Park is located on 895 acres at the northern tip of Grand Island, NY, an island surrounded by the Niagara River and just northwest of Buffalo, NY. Buckhorn Island offers scenic hiking in a vestige of a once vast system of wetlands along the Niagara River. Beaver Island State Park is located on 950 acres at the southern tip of Grand Island, NY. Beaver Island hosts a golf course, ample paddling opportunities, a nature center, and a bathing beach, among many other amenities for visitors. The parks represent 2 of 18 state parks in OPRHP's Niagara Region. More Information about both parks can be found by calling (716) 773-3271 or at For more information on WSP USA Inc., an international engineering consulting firm, visit For more information on The American Council of Engineering Companies of New York visit More information about the EPA Niagara Area of Concern and related restoration projects can be found at