U.S. Rep Brian Higgins announced Monday that he has secured $6.1 million in federal funds to open up both the physical and psychological barriers that bar full public access to one of the region’s longest-standing tourist attractions: the Buffalo Lighthouse.
“We’re always looking for opportunities to improve the outer harbor waterfront experience for the people of Western New York. So it’s somewhat ironic that you have the oldest standing structure on its original site, the 1833 lighthouse, that is largely inaccessible to the general public,” Higgins said, during a news conference outside the U.S. Coast Guard station.
In fact, he said, the Coast Guard station at the northern end of Fuhrmann Boulevard is the main barrier to full public access to the lighthouse and the surrounding outer harbor/waterfront area.
“This is treated like a fortress. That’s not good enough in the new Buffalo,” said Higgins.
“So we’ve engaged with the senior management of the Coast Guard in Washington, D.C., to work together toward the goal of opening up this property for the public, so that not only is it accessible, but the general public is encouraged to use the property,” he added, saying a plan would be developed to open up a 4.25 acre public park, to be tentatively called Buffalo Lighthouse Park.
“What we’ve got, basically, is a walkway here and about a 10-foot wide entrance that when people are traveling the waterfront and they’ve reached this point, they think it’s the end of it,” Higgins said of the current configuration.
Concrete barriers and stop signs are posted at the entrance to the Coast Guard station, while barbed wire fencing surrounds the facility. Higgins recalled that back in 2008, then U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton had secured over $6 million to create a walkway leading to the lighthouse. However, signs at the entrance discourage bicyclists from using the narrow pathway.
“We’ll start with incremental improvements to improve access to welcome people to this site and it will be carried through in subsequent capital budgets,” Higgins said of the planned improvements, which are expected to begin next spring.
“We’re going to work together to remove a lot of these barriers, both the physical and psychological so that more of the public can enjoy this great experience at Buffalo outer harbor waterfront,” he added.