Congressman working with U.S. Coast Guard on phased enhancements to improve public access at Outer Harbor site
Congressman Brian Higgins announced plans for a phased approach to improvements in and around the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Buffalo station to allow for the creation of Buffalo Lighthouse Park.
"Despite the growing number of people exploring and enjoying the Outer Harbor, the area around the lighthouse remains an under-discovered resource," Higgins said. "We are working to remove existing barriers and enhance the visitor experience, creating a lighthouse park at one of the most iconic waterfront sites in Buffalo."
Built in 1833, the Buffalo Lighthouse is one of the oldest lighthouses on the Great Lakes. Due to post-9/11 security requirements, the Buffalo Lighthouse, which sits on land adjacent to the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Buffalo station, was not accessible to the public for over a decade.
Working in conjunction with then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, in 2008, Higgins secured $6.1 million to upgrade and consolidate Coast Guard facilities, while opening up 4.25 acres of new public park space along the water and around the historic lighthouse once again in late 2011.
In recent months, Higgins has been working with the U.S. Coast Guard to coordinate capital plans at the Sector Buffalo site that will allow for improved public access to help make the public space around the lighthouse another Outer Harbor destination point.
Following written communication from Higgins to the Coast Guard and a recent meeting in Washington, D.C., between the congressman and the Coast Guard's assistant commandant for engineering and logistics, Higgins announced a shared vision for public access. Plans include the creation of a linear park adjacent to the base providing some of the best views of downtown Buffalo.
Short-term improvements include recent completion of phase one, which involved the relocation of utilities to accommodate for a restructured Coast Guard sector site. Phase two, also complete, is an $11.8-million reconstruction of the concrete docks and fueling area. Next up is the removal of redundant barriers at the entrance, which are confusing to lighthouse visitors and discourage public access. Higgins will also be working in the next budget period to support funding for Coast Guard plans to reconfigure buildings on the site to allow for a larger public footprint.
Separately, Higgins is also working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to coordinate an inspection of the sea wall along the lighthouse property and subsequent necessary structural repairs.
Higgins has been a vocal advocate for Outer Harbor improvements dating back to 2003 when then-assemblyman pushed for Buffalo's first waterfront development project, a $4 million boardwalk and improvement project at Gallagher Beach. In 2008, Higgins kicked off a project to reconstruct Fuhrmann Boulevard from a crumbling one-way street into a new, reopened Outer Harbor Parkway (2010). The $60 million infrastructure project was followed by a number of waterfront access and improvement projects along the parkway supported by federal and New York State Power Authority relicensing funding secured by Higgins, including a $6.1 million public access project at the Coast Guard property, $4.2 million for the Industrial Heritage Trail and Tifft Street Pier, $2 million at Union Ship Canal, $1.4 million at Times Beach and Gallagher Beach, and $3.3 million at Wilkeson Pointe.