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Fuhrmann Boulevard improvements boost Tifft Nature Preserve

Public interest in Tifft Nature Preserve appears to be growing exponentially, thanks to improvements to Buffalo’s Outer Harbor that have expanded access to the 264-acre nature and wildlife sanctuary adjacent to Lake Erie.

Infrastructure improvements that were completed five years ago have dramatically boosted the number of visitors to Tifft, according to Karen Wallace, acting president and chief executive officer of the Buffalo Museum of Science. She was joined Friday by Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, at the preserve, which serves as an educational site for the science museum and recently saw the completion of a 3,533-square-foot expansion project that includes an extended visitor center and a new multiuse space.

“The growth at Tifft Nature Preserve demonstrates the power of public infrastructure investments to drive new economic vitality,” Higgins said in a prepared statement Friday.

“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 to grow but also providing a new outlet of discovery for those who may have overlooked the preserve in the past, adding to the improved waterfront experience for visitors to the Outer Harbor.”

Once a city landfill, the site includes five nature trails and boardwalks, along with fishing, bird and wildlife viewing opportunities. Tifft also maintains an active public program schedule that includes discovery camps, family-friendly outings, educational classes, scouting events and guided tours.

Now that there is a direct connection from the Outer Harbor Parkway, or Fuhrmann Boulevard, to the nature preserve, visitor traffic has spiked.

According to Wallace, the nature preserve has seen a more than 125 percent increase in program attendance, growing from 6,667 visitors five years ago to more than 15,060 last year. General attendance has been boosted as a result of the increased visibility Tifft now enjoys thanks to the Fuhrmann Boulevard project, which has helped to raise public awareness about the nature preserve and its program offerings, Wallace added.

The transformation of Fuhrmann Boulevard into the Outer Harbor Parkway included the addition of multiuse trails, street parking and traffic-calming features. New landscaping was added, along with piers on Lake Kirsty at Tifft. Other additions include a pavilion and boardwalk extension at Gallagher Beach, as well as a direct connection to Tifft through an arching connection along the parkway.

The $60 million project was funded primarily with federal dollars and completed in 2010.