Bethlehem Steel-Woodlawn Beach Shoreline Trail Master Plan

Creating Pathways Through an Industrial Site

The next chapter in the rebirth of the former Bethlehem Steel site in Lackawanna, New York, is an extension of the successful Shoreline Trail. The extension of the existing trail from the former Bethlehem Steel site to Woodlawn Beach will provide access to Lake Erie and allow for future development at the site. This will create both economic development and quality of life benefits for the City of Lackawanna, the Town of Hamburg, and residents across Erie County.

The Erie County Industrial Development Agency (ECIDA) selected LaBella Associates to head a multi-disciplinary team tasked with creating a Master Plan for the extension of Erie County’s Shoreline Trail. The goal of the Master Plan was to address a major missing segment in Erie County’s vision for a continuous trail network while simultaneously maintaining the functionality of all current and future industrial uses situated within the Bethlehem Steel site.

Following extensive information gathering and data review, trail alternatives and community needs were identified to provide improved direction, data, and a narrative for future grant funding. A major focus of this process was to define a strategy that would serve as a catalyst for revitalization along the corridor and an improved quality of life for residents.

In conjunction with the planning and engineering phases of the project, LaBella determined the elements necessary to achieve a coherent and integrated trail project that provides connections to anchors along the route. The concept plans illustrate key relationships between circulation systems, redevelopment sites, existing buildings, greenspace, and public space.

The design concepts will be influenced by direct community input through participation in the visioning and design process, and the trail project will be broken down into trail segments to facilitate implementation and align with grant opportunities.

Project Objectives

The objectives of the Master Plan included:

  • Evaluating the feasibility of multiple options for extending the Shoreline Trail and recommending a preferred route
  • Developing preliminary route alignments and design criteria for a set of feasible alternative trail paths
  • Engaging the community and key stakeholders to ensure consensus prior to construction
  • Providing cost estimates for each alternative trail alignment
  • Identifying funding strategies to facilitate implementation

Project Challenges

Our team recognized the difficulties of constructing a multi-use trail through an active industrial site, and after careful coordination with the Shoreline Trail Steering Committee, established a set of measures for evaluating each trail alternative.

Some of the key criteria considered with each trail alternative included:

  • Increasing access, proximity, and views of the waterfront, natural areas, and industrial heritage
  • Avoidance of environmental constraints such as wetlands, flood areas, and contaminated sites
  • Minimizing right-of-way or easement purchases
  • Avoiding or minimizing crossing intersections and railroads
  • Grant requirements, ranking criteria, and funding limits
  • Public and stakeholder preferences
  • Avoiding on-road trail sections on Route 5 where possible


Using GIS to Map Trails

Our Data Intelligence team utilized ARC GIS technology to evaluate potential route alignments based on the technology’s extensive experience developing routes for utility transmission lines. A GIS script was developed to determine which routes would minimize costs and environmental issues while maximizing community and economic development benefits.


An Award-Winning Project

Master Plan Recognized for Outstanding Planning at WNY APA Annual Awards Event

In May 2023, LaBella was honored to join the Erie County Industrial Development Agency (ECIDA), the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning, and the Erie County Parks at WNY APA’s annual awards ceremony in Buffalo, New York, where the Bethlehem Steel-Woodlawn Beach Shoreline Trail Master Plan project received a 2023 Outstanding Planning Award in the Best Practice – Gold category.

The Western New York Section of the American Planning Association (WNY APA) aims to connect, engage, educate, and support planners throughout the region’s Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany, and Southern Ontario counties. The Section’s annual awards program recognizes great planning work taking place by their members.