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Expect a new normal at Canalside this summer

Chris Caya

It is going to be very different at Canalside this Memorial Day, in the the first unofficial weekend of summer under COVID-19 rules.

With the rules of social distancing and wearing masks in force, many of the events that usually take place on the inner and outer harbors will not be happening this year; not just the concerts, but also fireworks on the Fourth of July and the bike ferry between the harbors. Still, the green grass, the relaxing water and those colored Adirondack chairs are still around.

"We are open at Canalside, with kayak rentals and water bike rentals for the season and the Outer Harbor, the stand-up paddle boards and the kayak rentals will be coming online soon," said Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation President Steve Ranalli.

"You can still come down and enjoy things like that. We have also introduced a couple of new programs for this year. We will have a farmers market at Canalside."

Ranalli said there will be plenty to do on both sides of the Buffalo River.

"I know a number of people look forward to the event schedule and when things come out and so we obviously have to cut back on those things this year. But there are still miles and miles of trails and hundreds of acres of open space to come out and enjoy sitting at the beach, watching a sunset, flying your kite, walking your dog, bike riding," he said.

Ranalli said one new attraction will be tried out this year: outdoor movies on the Outer Harbor on the former site of The Pier. Some of the new rules will be around Canalside, like the plastic sheeting at outdoor food sources and markers for six feet of separation.

Ranalli said there will be enforcement of the new rules.         
"We've got hundreds of acres to manage here, so for the most part, we do have to rely on people and it is the honor system," he said. "If people are smart and can follow the guidelines and as a community, as an entire Western New York community, if people can be smart enough and keep that curve flattened, and things like this can continue. But I think we are always concerned that it can go the other way."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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