Sunday, May 24, 2015


The first ever New York State Park within the city of Buffalo opened this weekend.

Long, long time coming. It is another piece to the complete overhaul of the waterfront in the city. Nearby, thousands flocked to a Canalside Carnival. Big doings for the Memorial Day Weekend. This is very unlike the failing Friendship Festival that once brought people to the town's waterfront.  And then it was moved to the parking lot at the race track. Damned near killed the event altogether. Since it was moved back, it has steadily declined in attendance.  Maybe it's because one of the Good Old Gals, Flo Odding (The Bingo Queen) knows where the bodies are buried and retains her title of "organizer" in perpetuity. Time to either kiss the Friendship Festival goodbye or take it back to its beginnings, sans the bingo grifters.

Meanwhile, Fort Erie is once again focusing on Bay Beach and it looks like the private developers are sniffing around for another opportunity to take away the last public beachfront park area in Crystal Beach. Didn't anyone get the message over the past several years that the majority of the people want to keep the so-called Bay Beach Properties in the public's hands? It took petitions, delegations, and elections to drive that message home. Unfortunately, certain power brokers have turned that message around through frivolous lawsuits; an irresponsible and biased local press; threats and pressure. Now, we seem to be back at Square One. A "new" master plan is being formulated for Bay Beach. Now that the Chamber of Commerce has taken over council, it awarded the consultation contract to a decidedly developer-friendly (they are on record as supporting the Molinaro's bid for a P-3 agreement for the public land) consultant. I can imagine the so-called "community input" component of the study to consist of a heavily weighted group in favour of private development of the property. 

Interestingly, the state park in Buffalo went through years of such shenanigans, according to the article.

“There were five master plans developed for the outer harbor over the last fifty years and they all say the same thing: reserve the water’s edge for public access, and you’ll see private development follow. So that strategic vision is manifesting itself every day, so this is really just the build-out of many, many master plans.” (Brian Higgins, D-NY 26th Congressional District)

Not a bad idea. 

Some in Fort Erie look at this in reverse:

  Privately develop the water's edge and you'll see the public follow. Duh-oh.

UPDATE: Another year goes by and Fort Erie lets the coveted Blue Flag Destination go to other beaches. Those of use who want this designation for Crystal Beach have been frustrated in our attempts by the disregard of the environment and the potential of the Bay Beach Properties' South shore. Pity.

So, the former butt of jokes, Buffalo, is seeing more and more positive press for its innovations and smart growth. As a former resident of Buffalo who remembers the blight and inaccessibility of its waterfront, it is extremely gratifying to see what has been done to enhance the very pleasurable experience of the city's waterfront.

But Buffalo does not have a great sand beach in its wonderful waterfront parkland. It has boat slips, boats that ferry people through the harbour and lots of attractions. It will never have a pristine, sandy beach on site. The nearest decent beach is miles down the road. We have a great beach right in our own backyard. All we need to do is enhance the parkland that fronts it. Make it user-friendly with benches, shade and decent washrooms. Turn the south side parking lot into a picnic area. Add a bandstand. Whatever. 

Fort Erie: get your collective heads out of your nether regions and think about what your children and grandchildren will appreciate and cherish in the future. Will they cherish a high rise looming over the once (so-called) public beach?  Nah. Those of us with memories of the Crystal Beach Amusement Park are anything but amused now that a gated community stands on that once cherished land and the great sand beach is now inaccessible to the public. We are lucky that the Crystal Beach Tennis and Yacht Club developer "gave" the town a small piece of the beach and an alley to access it. With the purchase of the Bay Beach Properties in 2001, the town had a great opportunity to develop a first class beachfront park. 

We all remember how that worked out. Now, over a decade later, the town is poised to once again divest itself of its last legacy, one that gave the name Crystal Beach to the village.

In case you're getting ready to refute what I'm saying: a narrow alleyway from the road to the public beach through a large private development is no way to access our greatest asset.

The future of The Bay Beach Properties?