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Outer Harbor park to open by summer

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While many are wondering when spring will arrive, there are a few sure signs the change of seasons is underway. Crews started removing the Ice Boom from the mouth of the Niagara River this week and construction has resumed on a new park on Buffalo's waterfront that is on track to open by the end of May.A prime piece of land on the Outer Harbor near the Coast Guard Station where the ice boom was stored is being transformed into a 21-acre recreation area. Construction began last fall after the New York Power Authority turned the property over to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation.

Chairman Robert Gioia says plans include a sand beach.  

"So for the first time in over 50 years in this community people will be able to walk on a sandy beach. You're going to have volleyball courts, bike trails, [and] walking paths," Gioia said.

Other features include a gazebo, wind sculptures, comfort station and a dock for the water taxi, which also stops at Canalside and the Small Boat Harbor. Rep. Brian Higgins points out the $3.3 million project is being paid for out of a waterfront redevelopment fund mandated in the Power Authority's 2006 relicensing settlement.

"With the relocation of the Ice Boom we have triggered a positive wave of development on Buffalo's waterfront and these changes will bring even more opportunities along the Buffalo River and Outer Harbor," Higgins said. 

Gioia says it's not a question of if the adjoining 384 acres owned by the NFTA also gets turned over to Harbor Corporation, Gioia says it a question of when.

"We would hope to have some announcement within the next 60 days. Clearly you have multiple parties having discussions. And it's a big piece of property; a lot of issues; a lot of challenges with it," Gioia said.

The good news, Gioia says, is the NFTA, the City and Erie Canal Harbor Corporation agree the long vacant property needs to be in the hands of an organization focused on providing public access to the waterfront.