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More trails, boat rentals, swimming on public's wish list for Outer Harbor

More trails. More access to the water. And more places to rent boats, find a bathroom and buy food and beverages.

Those are the wishes from many of the 290 people who responded to a survey about what they'd like see at the Outer Harbor.

"The results re-enforce our current direction," said Steven Ranalli, vice president of development for Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. "Overall, they want a space that complements Canalside, a place where you can get away from an urban or suburban environment and enjoy a quieter, simpler waterfront."

The state agency sought public feedback at a July 11 public meeting and also online for a month afterward.

Those who responded to the survey generally see the Outer Harbor as a family-friendly spot for relaxing in a natural environment, viewing beautiful sunsets, engaging in recreational activities and bringing out-of-town guests.

A paved path runs along the breakwater surrounding the Small Boat Harbor at Outer Harbor State Park, Wednesday, June 28, 2017. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

The survey was also intended to help guide project ideas for First Buffalo River Marina, Terminal B and an area that stretches from the Bell Slip to Wilkeson Pointe.

The 15-acre First Buffalo River Marina includes a 115-slip marina and is expected to become an access point for the Queen City Bike Ferry. Potential reuses for the Connecting Terminal grain elevator and long-term development possibilities are under consideration.

So is the reuse of Terminal B, a 96,000-square-foot building, and the 15 acres that surround it.

Ways to enhance access and overall visitor experience on the 124 acres between Wilkeson Pointe and the Bell Slip are also under review.

A public meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 19 at a yet-to-be-determined location near the waterfront. For more information, go to www.outerharborbuffalo.com/accessandactivation.

Almost half the people who filled out a survey wanted to see beaches and swimming opportunities, while about one-third said they'd like to see food stands, with a formal restaurant low on the list.

The results showed the Outer Harbor still has a way to go to please many of those who use it.

Asked whether the Outer Harbor met, exceeded or didn't meet expectations, 133 said the natural setting met or exceeded expectations. But 102 said it didn't meet expectations.

It was characterized as a "safe place" by 130 people.

About one-third who responded said they considered the Outer Harbor a tourist destination. Only one in four thought of it as a year-round destination.

Forty respondents said the Outer Harbor lacked sufficient parking, while 58 felt the activities were limited.

The survey was mostly represented by older people, with 61 people under the age of 40 taking part. Slightly more than half visited the Outer Harbor once a month or more, with nearly one-third visiting once a week or more.

"One thing I found interesting is that over half of the respondents were from outside the city," Ranalli said. "Clearly, the Outer Harbor is seen as a regional asset. I think that's really important as we make decisions on what goes out there."

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