Erie County Provides $1.1 Million for New ADA-Accessible Trail at Tifft Nature Preserve | Local News

Tifft Nature Preserve’s extensive forest trails are already considered one of Western New York’s best places to commune with nature.

Soon they will be even more accessible to more people.

A $1.1 million grant from Erie County will help create a half-mile-long, Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant walkway that will open up new vistas for park patrons.

“More people are going to be able to enjoy all the benefits of weather and nature, and all that Tifft Nature Preserve has to offer,” Marisa Wigglesworth, president and CEO of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, announced Friday. , from the deck of the Herb and Jane Darling Environmental Education Center off Kirsty Lake.

“This path about half a mile long will stretch from the Darling Education Center to one of the jewels of the reserve: the Heritage Boardwalk,” added Wigglesworth.

The trail will be designed to accommodate anyone of any ability, whether using a wheelchair or pushing a stroller.

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The reserve’s 264 acres of restored habitat already includes five miles of trails, and the planned addition will be 10% of that, said Wigglesworth, who was joined on the back deck of the Darling Center by the county manager of Erie Mark C. Poloncarz for the announcement. financing.

Poloncarz said the plans for the project were first drawn up following repeated requests from visitors.

In addition to funding from Erie County, the improved trail will receive financial support from the Buffalo & Erie County Greenway Fund, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Legacy Funds of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, as well as the New York Power Authority and the Montgomery Family Foundation. The county’s portion of the funding will pay for expenses associated with ADA-compliant ramps and other improvements to improve accessibility.

“One of the keys that we have been working on lately in our network of parks is to ensure that our parks are accessible to everyone. We know that it is not always easy when it comes to spaces natural spaces, because natural spaces are not necessarily made for those who have ambulatory problems,” said Poloncarz.

He added that funding from the county’s share of the project was made possible by a $174.5 million surplus in the county’s 2021 budget.

“It’s all part of our efforts to create the best possible Erie County using funds from the county government, as well as our partners, to ensure they return to the community,” Poloncarz said.

Also on hand for the announcement was Daniel Castle, Erie County Environment and Planning Commissioner, who is also chairman of the standing committee for the Buffalo & Erie County Greenway Fund which Castle says will provide an additional $400,000. to cover the cost of the entire project.

The trail will include concrete walkways leading to the education center entrance and fire exits, as well as a visitor’s gazebo at the trailhead, according to nature park steward Zach Goodrich. He said most of the trail will be a crushed stone dust path, compacted and with adequate drainage to provide a solid surface for wheelchairs, while the Heritage Boardwalk portion of the trail will be all wood. . The trail will eventually lead visitors to the Cattail Marsh Scenic Area.

Poloncarz said construction is expected to begin in 2023, with much of the work expected to be completed by the end of next year. The official opening is scheduled for 2024.

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