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Expanded access at Outer Harbor drives public to programs at Tifft Nature Preserve


Fri, Feb 19th 2016 03:10 pm

Higgins, Buffalo Museum of Science detail 125 percent increase in attendance, and expansion at Tifft Nature Preserve

Congressman Brian Higgins joined Buffalo Museum of Science acting President and CEO Karen Wallace to highlight the growth at Tifft Nature Preserve. The site, which serves as the environmental education site of the Buffalo Museum of Science, located on Fuhrmann Boulevard, has experienced an exponential increase in program attendance following improvements to Buffalo's Outer Harbor. 

"The growth at Tifft Nature Preserve demonstrates the power of public infrastructure investments to drive new economic vitality," Higgins said. "For 40 years, Tifft Nature Preserve has held a unique position as a natural exploration destination within an urban center, yet for too long it remained tucked away and difficult to get to. Improved connections along Fuhrmann Boulevard are helping Tifft Nature Preserve to grow, but also providing a new outlet of discovery for those who may have overlooked Tifft in the past, adding to the improved waterfront experience for visitors to Buffalo's Outer Harbor."

For decades, Fuhrmann Boulevard was difficult to access, hard to navigate as a one-way road and in seriously deteriorating condition. When the conversion of Fuhrmann Boulevard was first proposed, it consisted of asphalt with very little landscaping or public-friendly features. In 2007, as discussions about reconstruction of Fuhrmann Boulevard progressed, Higgins and the New York State Department of Transportation formed a volunteer landscape advisory committee responsible for the development of improvements to the infrastructure project to enhance the final design for the waterfront parkway.

Wallace, who previously served as director of science learning and interpretation, was one of eight experts who served on the committee.

The landscape advisory committee's recommendations for transformation of Fuhrmann Boulevard into the Outer Harbor Parkway included the addition of multiuse trails, street parking and traffic-calming features, landscaping elements, piers on Lake Kirsty at Tifft, a pavilion and boardwalk extension at Gallagher Beach and a direct connection to Tifft Nature Preserve through a direct arching connection along the parkway. The $60-million project (primarily federally funded) was completed in 2010. 

Over the past five years, Tifft Nature Preserve has experienced a more than 125 percent increase in program attendance numbers, growing from 6,667 visitors in 2010 to more than 15,060 in 2015. General visitation to the preserve has also increased as the visibility made possible through the Fuhrmann Boulevard project is helping to raise new public awareness about Tifft Nature Preserve and its diverse program offerings.

Wallace said, "The board of directors and staff of Tifft Nature Preserve and Buffalo Museum of Science are indebted to Congressman Higgins and his dedication to the advancements made by the landscape advisory committee. Congressman Higgins' passion for the Outer Harbor has allowed Tifft staff to provide continuity and connectivity for visitors and continue our mission of engaging our community with sustainable environmental practices."

Tifft recently completed a 3,533-square-foot expansion project that includes an extended visitor center and new multiuse space. The preserve is expecting additional growth in attendance following this expansion as well as the increased public interest and activity along the Outer Harbor. Tifft leaders are pursuing additional funding to support future phases of enhancements to the site, which will include: green surface upgrades to the parking lot, signage, walkways, rehabilitation to the east classroom, exterior renovations and upgraded educational exhibits, among other projects. 

Once a city landfill, today Tifft Nature Preserve sits as a 264-acre nature refuge adjacent to Lake Erie. The site, which includes five miles of nature trails, boardwalks, fishing, bird and wildlife viewing opportunities, maintains an active public program schedule that includes: discovery camps, family-friendly outings, educational classes, scouting events and guided tours.

Access to Tifft's grounds, located at 1200 Fuhrmann Blvd., is free and open to the public.

For more information on the Tifft program and event schedule, visit www.tifft.org.

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