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The Tifft Nature Preserve (Photos courtesy of the Office of Congressman Brian Higgins)
The Tifft Nature Preserve (Photos courtesy of the Office of Congressman Brian Higgins)

Leaders join Buffalo Museum of Science in push for accessible trail at Tifft Nature Preserve


Mon, Dec 27th 2021 11:00 am

Trail would provide Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible nature & waterfront access

Congressman Brian Higgins recently joined Buffalo Museum of Science President and CEO Marisa Wigglesworth to suggest construction of a new, Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible trail at Tifft Nature Preserve be incorporated into ongoing Buffalo waterfront development plans. New York State Sen. Tim Kennedy, Assemblyman Jon Rivera, Buffalo City Councilmember Chris Scanlon and other community partners joined in support of the new trail, which they said would improve access to nature and environmental education experiences for families and people with disabilities.

“An accessible trail at Tifft Nature Preserve would be a welcome addition to the Outer Harbor and the Western New York Community,” Higgins said. “It will allow people of all ages and abilities to enjoy nature, and continues building on our efforts to ensure that the Buffalo waterfront is accessible to the entire community.”

Wigglesworth said, “At the Buffalo Museum of Science and Tifft Nature Preserve, we believe and promote that nature and science are for everyone. These proposed funds would help make these improvements at Tifft possible and allow us to accelerate the pace at which we can make this unique resource in Buffalo accessible to all, regardless of age or ability.”

Kennedy said, "Tifft Nature Preserve is one of our region's crown jewels that has provided an oasis of calm and peace to countless visitors during the pandemic. The new accessible trail allows Tifft to showcase Western New York's unique environment to all visitors, and I fully support Congressman Higgins' push to include this project in plans to make our city's waterfront accessible to everyone."

Rivera said, “The Tifft Nature Preserve is one of many hidden environmental gems within Buffalo. An outdoor education center with a unique habitat, nestled in the city and not far from its industrial grain silos, Tifft offers residents an environmental oasis in a metropolitan space. With the addition of an ADA-accessible trail for those with disabilities, the preserve will become readily available to even more groups of people eager to walk through its well-maintained paths.”

Scanlon said, “I fully support Congressman Higgins and the Buffalo Museum of Science’s proposal to construct an ADA-accessible trail at Tifft Nature Preserve. The new path would make it possible for people of all ages and abilities to access and enjoy this unique, serene space nestled right in South Buffalo.”

Funding for this project would transform a half-mile loop into an ADA-accessible trail, which begins at the Herb & Jane Darling Environmental Education Center and leads visitors through the woods and around the Heritage Boardwalk.

Higgins’ team said, “Currently, the trails are both narrow and seasonably wet, which makes it challenging for visitors with strollers, wheelchairs, walkers, and limited mobility. Additionally, signage on the trail is in need of updates and there are few rest areas.

“The Tifft improvement plans include new concrete walkways at the entrance and emergency exits of the Education Center, a welcome kiosk at the trailhead, a compacted stone dust trail surface, simplified trail intersections, a complete rebuild of the Heritage Boardwalk to widen the walkway, and allow for a better viewing experience for all visitors. Driven by visitor request, these improvements will ensure that Tifft Nature Preserve is wheelchair, walker and stroller-friendly, making it accessible for people of all ages regardless of their physical abilities.”

Proposed by the Buffalo Science Museum, the total budget for this project is $1,663,953, which includes funding for construction, research and design, and signage. Leaders are requesting $500,000 in funding made available through the New York Power Authority federal relicensing settlement through the Buffalo & Erie County Greenway Fund toward construction costs. The Montgomery Family Foundation and Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Fund have committed $75,000 toward construction, planning, research and design.

Higgins is pushing for the Tifft Nature Preserve Accessible Trail in his plan to accelerate waterfront development in Buffalo. His plan proposes using NYPA federal relicensing settlement funding and resources newly available through the federal infrastructure bill to improve pedestrian and bike access, and create new parkland and public destinations at and around Buffalo’s Outer Harbor.

The Buffalo Science Museum maintains Tifft Nature Preserve, a unique nature and environmental education center and recreation area located along Buffalo’s Outer Harbor. The nature preserve is a reclaimed brownfield; its restoration and transformation are highlighted at the Education Center. This new project would make the area more accessible for Tifft’s current visitors and is expected to increase the number of visitors overall to the nature preserve.

To learn more about Tifft Nature Preserve, visit https://www.tifft.org/.

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