Efforts to save and reopen the Times Beach Nature Preserve

​BUFFALO, NY — ​Jay Burney has always loved nature. He is an ornithology enthusiast. That’s why Times Beach’s closure is somewhat disappointing.

“Being close doesn’t negatively affect birds and other wildlife,” said Burney, founder of Friends of Times Beach Nature Preserve. “It probably protects them more. It’s sad because humans really love this place and they love to come here and look at nature and the fact that it’s closed, it hurts our ability to express what we have here and share it with people.

The area is currently closed after a storm hit Buffalo in December. Burney says Lake Erie is notorious for seiches, wind-driven tsunamis that cause the area to flood as far as Furman Boulevard. Burney says this isn’t the first time the beach has been closed. The last big storm dates back to October 2019.

“In this area we had a 16 foot seiche,” he said. “And it was disastrous. So since then, we’ve had about fifteen cuttlefish.

It has been declared a disaster by FEMA. It took years for Friends of Times Beach to get a permit from Erie County to recruit volunteers to clean it up and open it. They finally did it last fall and about 40 volunteers came down and opened up a section of the trail.

“We were hoping it would be open for the winter, but the next big seich came in a month, and that whole section we opened was swept away again. It’s covered in debris now,” Burney said.

Burney says there is no plan in place to reopen the beach. It’s possible this will happen in the spring, but that’s a big if. He says climate change, and how it will affect places like Times Beach and the Outer Harbor, plays a big role in the decision.

“We’re not quite sure what we want to do,” Burney said. “We don’t want to put people at risk. We don’t want to throw good money after bad. So rethinking what this nature reserve should be could be part of the work we’re doing right now.

Members of the Friends of Times Beach are working with the Erie County Parks Department on a reopening plan. Mark Cornell is the Deputy Commissioner of Parks. He says they are working with FEMA to secure approximately $1 million in funding to repair damage from the 2019 storm. They also received a $500,000 grant from the State Dormitory Authority of New York in 2018. Cornell says funding was refocused to conduct a study on coastal resilience in the region.

“It is clear that we are going to continue to have these flood events and that is going to continue to cause damage, so we would like to understand what we can do to prevent further damage to any work that we have done and ensure that this place is open and enjoyed by all residents who really appreciate this kind of oasis on the outer harbor,” said Cornell.

For information on how to volunteer with the Friends of Times Beach Nature Preserve, check out their Facebook page.

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