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2 The Outdoors: The future of Times Beach

The sensitive sanctuary has taken a beating over the last few years from repeated storms.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Mother Nature can be a hard task mistress, even to her own. Times Beach Nature Preserve on the Outer Harbor has been mostly closed since 2019.

A storm in October of that year spawned a seiche that heavily damaged the waterfront sanctuary. 

Jay Burney of Friends of Times Beach Nature Preserve has been working to preserve Times Beach for decades. 

"A seiche is like a tsunami, except it's not caused by an earthquake, it's caused by the wind. So when this seiche hit this end of the lake, all of our shorelines in Buffalo and Erie County, Niagara County, were impacted. We had water at Times Beach and throughout the Buffalo Harbor which was 12 feet or higher."

Credit: Jay Burney
The serious damage began with a 2019 seiche.

Times Beach has not had a chance to recover, as it's been battered by a number of storms since, each inflicting more damage. Boardwalks and trails were destroyed. 

Burney explains that a protective break wall was breached, making it impossible to control flooding. 

"That break wall is broken and that has allowed a lot of the flooding. We don't want to rebuild those boardwalks until we've got that under control."

Mart MacSwan the Chief Environmental Compliance Specialist for Erie County said,  "All those external forces at a higher intensity than it does just chip away at it over time, and it's a section of the break wall that was constructed somewhat differently from another section of it that has remained intact."

Credit: Jay Burney
Subsequent storms have increased the damage.

The 55-acre site was once an important barrier on the lake, helping to mitigate such disasters. Burney says that, ironically, development over the years has diminished its ability to protect the inland from such storms. 

"All that shoreline, millions of acres of marsh and sand dunes vanish. The shoreline has become hardened. We've developed down here. So now all the buildings and infrastructure that you have here are very vulnerable to those storms."

Credit: Jay Burney
Efforts to restore Times Beach are underway.

The preserve's recovery is aided by strong allies. Erie County, the City of Buffalo and the Friends of Times Beach Nature Preserve are all working together to restore Times Beach.

"All the pieces of the puzzle are there," says MacSwan." But a big part of it is figuring out resiliency for the site."

Burney agrees. "We are fighting a battle to preserve resiliency on the Outer Harbor, and we have a few friends, but mostly we need the public to understand the importance of saving the environment."

For more information on The Friends Of Times Beach Nature Preserve, click here.

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