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Accent is on easing access to shoreline

Public access to Buffalo's waterfront was the catchphrase of the day as Rep. Brian Higgins showcased recent developments on the inner and outer harbor projects.

Higgins, D-Buffalo, highlighted the new docks and shoreline work at the two harbors and discussed an upcoming study about the feasibility and environmental impact of having a bridge connecting them.

The study, expected to start in October, will consider sites such as the foot of Michigan Avenue, Main Street and Erie Street, Higgins said. The federal government will fund the $2 million project.

Currently, drivers must take the Skyway when moving from one harbor to the other.

Higgins also said the proposed location for the new Bass Pro Shop was still being discussed. "There's an ongoing consideration and talks for other options," spokeswoman Theresa Kennedy said about the location of store, which has generated some opposition.

While proponents have said that a big store such as Bass Pro would help revitalize downtown Buffalo's economy, critics contend that building the store at the Central Wharf is incongruous with the area's historic feel.

At the Erie Canal Harbor, Higgins pointed out the 560 feet of new floating docks that are being fitted along the wharf. They will provide parking, water and electrical services for up to 40 boats and were funded by the state.

"We're putting a great emphasis on public access," he said.

At the old Pier Restaurant on the outer harbor, Higgins reported that the pedestrian and bicycle path is expected to be finished by next spring. The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is working to reconstruct the shoreline.

Higgins hopes that the outer harbor will eventually feature a row of interconnected public spaces and pathways.

"We want to create the conditions to make the outer harbor more attractive," Higgins said. "We don't want it to compete with downtown Buffalo."

Robert Z. Melnick, a University of Oregon professor, helped write the guidelines on historic landscapes in New York. While he would not comment on the inner and outer harbors specifically, he said the addition of green space often adds to a canal's beauty.

"Green spaces . . . enable people to really see those spaces as usable areas that contribute to the quality of their lives," he said. "If you can do that and still incorporate the resources, so much the better."
e-mail: aerickson@buffnews.com1

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