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Gallagher Beach designed only for small craft access

The Buffalo Small Boat Harbor and adjacent green space have seen rapid development in a relatively short time, as restrooms, a carousel, a playground and kayak rental concession have increased opportunities for public use and access. Most of this success has been under the administration of the State Parks Department, which has the will and deep pockets to undertake such projects. The nearby Gallagher Beach, however, remains at status quo.

The improvements undertaken in 1998, which morphed the beach from a boulder-strewn dump to its current condition, was intended, as reported by The News, to create launch sites for windsurfers, kayaks and other small nonmotorized craft, and a separate personal watercraft dock and launch, each with dedicated parking areas. The focus of the administrators, however, has continued to be directed toward creating a multiuse facility, with water access as a secondary objective.

The gravel beach itself is groomed almost daily, making it attractive to individuals, usually with small children or teens, who appear on warm summer days to ignore the “no swimming” signs and cool off. The large machine used to groom the beach does have the effect of covering most of the dog feces, which are left behind by the numerous dog owners who take advantage of the area to swim their pets. Human nature being what it is, some casual users feel compelled to break their beer bottles on the riprap and concrete retaining wall.

This scenario will most likely not change until a toddler drowns or a teenager’s body is recovered from under the barges that line the adjacent grain elevator. That’s the way these things seem to get resolved.

Creating an attraction and ignoring the obvious unintended results is not a good idea. Water and soil pollution and erosion make this site a poor choice for a beach, but an ideal site for its intended use, recreational small craft access. Restricting parking or issuing permits to users should be considered. Buffalo may need another bathing beach, but this isn’t it.

Michael Celej


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