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Outer Harbor plans get public airing

In what as become an annual ritual around here, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation Wednesday night showed off areas it wants to develop on the Outer Harbor, the latest phase of the project.


Credit Mike Desmond
Mike Desmond

The ECHDC is looking at a vast swath of the Outer Harbor, from the Times Beach Nature Preserve to the aging Terminal A, which was once a Ford auto assembly plant. Final plans are expected in November.

There are three different pieces of property, assigned to three different consultants to listen to the public on what should be done with each of the properties. Overall, those properties comprise the First Buffalo River Marina, the 154 acres from Wilkeson Point to the Bell Slip and Terminal B.

ECHDC Vice President of Waterfront Development Steve Ranalli said there is significant construction underway, next to Terminal B.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"We're actually redeveloping about 30 acres of property there," Ranalli said. "That would be the mountain bike course and the associated activity zone, multi-use trail system that will finish off the trail that is out along the lake and tie it into Fuhrmann Boulevard, as well as an events lawn and 11 acres or so of habitat restoration."

Ranalli said the ECHDC also recognizes that the public wants open space on the Outer Harbor.

"The community landed on open space for the majority of the Outer Harbor and that's something that ECHDC agreed with. It's codified by the city in the Green Code," he said. "And so tonight, we want to move forward with open space ideas to build out that area."

Open space appeared to be supported by the Post-it notes attached to some plans and in the messages written on a large sheet of workpaper.

Besides the ECHDC projects on the surface, the Army Corps of Engineers is planning underwater work. Bryan Hinterberger, lower Great Lakes partnership coordinator, said the Army Corps project will restore habitat.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"It's a slip that's depth is below 20 feet or so," Hinterberger explained. "So, basically, we would raise that level up so the sunlight can get down on the plants. We do plantings, create other features for the natural creatures that live there and essentially use dredged material as a resource to make this happen."

Hinterberger said some local activists expect this project to help bring back muskies, once one of the great fish of the Great Lakes.

Longtime waterfront activist Jim Carr said the development corporation is thinking too small.

"Fifty years ago, the Erie-Niagara Regional Planning Board did a study of the Niagara River. This is the southern end of the Niagara River. We need to look at this as part of a larger whole," Carr said. "You've got to look outside the walls of ECHDC and think about what this can be as a component of a national or international gateway recreation area."

Carr said the Niagara River from one end to the other should be planned as one entity.

Common Councilmember Chris Scanlon said the planning is good, but his South Buffalo constituents are excited by what has already been done.

"People are excited, obviously, to see the state park on the Outer Harbor, the restaurants popping up, things like that, more public space for people," Scanlon said. "I think people a little older than me, they are just excited to see there is actually use taking place out there when they were cut off from it for so many years."

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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