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Revising harbor signage Site needs better interpretation of its unique and colorful history

Visitors to this weekend's pond hockey tournament on the waterfront may have taken some time to visit the nearby Erie Canal Harbor as well. If they did, they didn't learn as much about Buffalo's rich heritage as they could have. Interpretive signage now in place at the harbor falls short of that goal, and still needs revision.

To their credit, state development officials have begun that task by holding public meetings and tapping the knowledge of experts. The end result should be a clear, well-told story of the canal terminus.

Complaints about a lack of historical perspective, highlighted by News columnist Donn Esmonde and others, made it clear the signage issue needed to be revisited. Canal officials reached out to a wide group of people, from those who had been involved with a historic advisory committee for signage in the past, to preservationists and others who may have been critical of the original signage plans, and to those steeped in local history -- such as Western New York Heritage magazine experts and historian Duncan Hay of the National Park Service.

There's also an opportunity for broad public comment. E-mails can be sent to mdavison@empire.state.ny.us. Feel free to become part of the process.

Asking for input from those who may not have been complimentary to this effort in the past is the right thing to do. A report will be compiled and sent back to those participants, who will then be able to critique the results and add further comments. The harbor development board will then receive the report, which will include six or seven signage themes, and the board decision memo coming out of that process will circle back to the participants.

All of this work will determine the amount of money available to spend on the project, largely based on the number of themes and how to supplant the signs already at the site. The two or three months that it will take to complete the process should be worth it.

Buffalo has a unique harbor story to tell. It's important to tell it well.

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