Modified: July 1, 2022 2:58pm

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Details of the eventual transformation of an existing three-quarter mile trail loop at Tifft Nature Preserve along Buffalo’s Outer Harbor were shared today as part of a collaborative presentation by Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, the Erie County Department of Environment & Planning and various community partners, including the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences.

The project will receive financial support for the accessible trail from Erie County, the Buffalo & Erie County Greenway Fund, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Funds at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, the New York Power Authority and the Montgomery Family Foundation. The county’s portion is $1.1 million that will specifically pay for expenses associated with Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant ramps and other accessibility improvements.

“The eventual completion of this trail will assure visitors of all ages and abilities that they can be close to nature in a safe and scenic environment,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “The plans for improvement will bring families together and help create many great memories of time spent together outdoors at Tifft Nature Preserve. I thank our many partners for helping to make this concept of an accessible trail soon become reality.”

The accessible trail project, which was first developed following repeated requests from visitors, will begin at the Herb and Jane Darling Environmental Education Center and lead guests through natural wooded areas and around the Preserve’s Heritage Boardwalk, eventually leading visitors to the scenic cattail marsh area.

“These improvements will allow for everyone to safely explore Tifft Nature Preserve, regardless of age or ability,” said Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences President and CEO Marisa Wigglesworth. “We know well the great value that spending time in nature provides. With this upgrade, more people and more families will be able to enjoy all that Tifft has to offer. We thank Erie County and all of the very generous community partners for making this project possible by improving the accessibility of this prized community resource.”

The plans include concrete walkways leading to the entrance and emergency exits of the Education Center, a welcome kiosk at the trailhead, a compacted stone dust trail surface, simplified trail intersections, a complete rebuild of the existing Heritage Boardwalk to widen it with helical pile support, and a viewing platform above the Heritage Boardwalk.

The accessible trail project will result in safe and easy passage for everyone, include those pushing strollers, anyone in wheelchairs or who uses a walker, and those who have limited mobility. The current conditions of that stretch of passage is uneven and often is seasonally wet, making them difficult for some to navigate.

The timeline for the project for the rest of the current calendar year includes permit reviewing and construction bidding. The eventual construction of the trail and boardwalk is estimated to take place in Fall 2023, with signage design and installation work targeted for late 2023/early 2024 and an eventual ribbon cutting and opening of the new trail pegged for Spring 2024.

For more information:

About the Erie County Department of Environment & Planning, visit www.erie.gov/environment

About Tifft Nature Preserve, visit www.tifft.org