By Carl Dennis
I would like to urge the people of Buffalo to support with enthusiasm the proposal to make the Outer Harbor into a state park, which has just been drawn up by the Partnership for the Public Good and endorsed by the Outer Harbor Coalition.
It offers a compelling case that a state park is the surest way to secure for our children and grandchildren the lakefront park that the public has called for and has recently been approved by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp.
We need to remember that the park that now seems inevitable seemed unlikely only a few years ago, when many officials seemed interested in extending the development of Canalside to the Outer Harbor.
It required the effort of many organizations to gather the information making it clear that the public was in fact strongly behind a park, and had been for some time, that while it believed there were many places in our city where new development would be very welcome, the Outer Harbor needed to be reserved for the kind of recreation by the water available in no other part of the city, and for nature study and the protection of rare habitats.
It may be argued that we can rely on the Green Code to protect the parkland in our city from economic pressures, that one of the stipulated reasons for the thousand hours of work that went into the code’s development was to move from the old code that was weakly enforced to one that we could all get behind, from the mindset of old Buffalo in which the city was so poor and development so rare that any building seemed better than none, to a new Buffalo that worked to be true to the distinctive character of each part of the city.
But the way the code has so far been enforced gives us little reason to feel secure.
There are a large number of variances being granted not only for unusual hardships that might be imposed by strict compliance but for no better reason than that the developers might increase their profits if they received an exemption.
So far the Green Code is only a green suggestion box, with the rules of the code treated merely as a starting point for negotiations that are likely to end with the code set aside as inconvenient.
If we want our successful struggle to zone the Outer Harbor as parkland to be a permanent gift to our city, and not a continual struggle that has to be fought again every few years, we need to get behind the compelling argument for a state park we are now fortunate to have before us.
Carl Dennis, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and retired English professor from the University at Buffalo, is a member of the Outer Harbor Coalition.