If you have never been to our Outer Harbor just south of the downtown area, you might get the impression from most media reports that it is a “wasteland” just waiting for access to its highest use, often described by our conservative business community’s talking points as instense development into a new urban community. Much like the Admirals Walk “community” adjacent to the Buffalo Inner Harbor, which makes public access and enjoyment almost impossible to anyone except the high end condo users in that, um, “public” neighborhood. The Outer Harbor intentions by the decisionmakers reflects more of a sprawl vision. This would be a costly to the public strategy that is playing out now as we contemplate our future.
If however, you are one of the thousands of people that have come to enjoy the peaceful beauty of this very special place right on our lakeshore, walking, biking, jogging, birdwatching, enjoying sunsets, or just plain relaxing in the tranquility of this edge between the dense urban downtown and the wilderness of Lake Erie -you know how stunning, beautiful, and increasingly popular this area is for, well, all of us.
For a couple of years now, this area has been under threat of intense development. Private condo’s, commercial, and even industrial uses have been proposed here and are not far from becoming a reality.
Today’s Sunday Morning Television brings a decidedly interesting look at some of our Outer Harbor. It is mostly filmed just adjacent to the Bell Slip and along the Greenway Trail and Outer Harbor Drive leading toward the former Pier Restaurant site. The video reveals an amazing cache of nature, habitats, and biodiversity. Watching and listening to it helps us to understand the real value of this area. Stretching from the Bell Slip to the former Pier Restaurant site at the Michigan Street inlet, and placed between Fuhrmann Blvd and the lake shore, this relatively large green space is worthy of conservation attention as opposed to all out development. Habitat’s include the “old sand dune” area which reminds us of the original coastline of marsh and dune. This old sand, possibly dredged from the Bell Slip, hosts rare and interesting eco-areas that feature unusual plants including natives such as Spotted Bee-balm, Common Milkweed, and the ancient Horsetail. The adjacent emerging grasslands and copse’s of trees include a critical and beautiful young cottonwood forest. Wildlife includes fox and coyote; a wide variety of migrating and nesting birds including warblers, shorebirds, woodpeckers, waterfowl; other bird species including Snowy Owl, Savanah Sparrow, Merlin’s, Perrigrine Falcon, Wild Turkey, Common Tern, Bald Eagle; rare and unusual beetles; and insects such as native bee’s, dragonflies, butterflies; and other pollinators. The shorelines includes spawning for fish and other breeding space for reptiles and amphibians. This place is precious. This video may change your perspective of this area’s value and especially it’s quantifiable economic value as an ongoing publically owned natural greenspace. This should be a place for all of us to enjoy, foever. #Our Outer Harbor.
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Our Outer Harbor: Grasslands and Forest adjacent to the Bell Slip
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The Friends of Times Beach Nature Preserve is a Buffalo based organization dedicated to preserving and educating about critical habitat and species in the Great Lakes and at the downtown shoreline Buffalo preserve.