By MARK WOODSON
Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) joined Buffalo Museum of Science acting President & CEO Karen Wallace to highlight the tremendous 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,” said Congressman Higgins. “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, Congressman 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. Karen Wallace, acting President & CEO for the Buffalo Museum of Science, 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 multi-use 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, primarily federally funded, project was completed in 2010.
Over the last five years, Tifft Nature Preserve has experienced a more than 125% increase in program attendance numbers, growing from 6,667 visitors in 2010 to over 15,060 in 2015. General visitation to the Preserve has also increased as the visibility made possible through the Fuhrmann Blvd. project is helping to raise new public awareness about Tifft Nature Preserve and their diverse program offerings.
Tifft recently completed a 3,533 square foot expansion project that includes an extended Visitor Center and new multi-use 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.
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