Buffalo officially has a state park, with Wednesday's ribbon cutting for Buffalo Harbor State Park, a multi-million-dollar rebuilding of the decrepit relics of the city's industrial past into a major recreation area.
A vast tract of the Outer Harbor languished for decades under the ownership of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. That changed with public demands for renovation and access and millions of dollars from Albany.
The property around the old Ford plant and north was taken over by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, while the old Small Boat Harbor and down past Gallagher Beach was shifted to state parks. Buffalo Assemblymember Sean Ryan said he knows what used to be there, from his days as a kid in Lackawanna.
"We would ride our bikes across the Tifft Street bridge to come down here and we would go out on these rocks and we fished from the rocks," Ryan said. "You weren't supposed to be out on the breakwall. You weren't supposed to be fishing there. It really wasn't set up right. Your fishing lures would hit the boat covers. Nobody really wanted you around. So it's so nice now to be able to see this breakwall cap."
That breakwall is a major part of the entire project, protecting the marina as well as providing a long walkway along the Outer Harbor with steps down to the water for those who want to fish or just put their feet in the lake. At the ribbon cutting, visitors to the ceremony walked along the renovated breakwall of the marina, with its extended walkway and landscaping.
State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said there will be more changes.
"There's going to be a lot of partnerships in performance and activity, going forward," Harvey said. "With the Gallagher Pier over here behind you, we are definitely supporting more kayaking, more water sports, getting out on the water. We have many, many events, many charity events that are going on."
"For the good that they do, for opening up for the first time in decades something that's been denied people in this community for too long and that's access to our greatest resource," said Buffalo Congressman Brian Higgins, a longtime proponent of the Outer Harbor. "So this is a great contribution by New York State and New York State Parks."
Because of the warmer-than-usual weather, few boats have been put away from the docks run by Safe Harbor. Separate boat launching facilities also are in active use.