BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A Buffalo lawmaker is appealing to the state parks department to stop plans to charge visitors a $5.00 parking fee to visit the small boat harbor.
Assemblyman Michael P. Kearns said a Tennessee developer who has a lease for up to 45 years to run the marina said he’s wrong to say that the facility is just a marina and not a park.
Darby Campbell, CEO of Safe Harbor Marina told slip holders last week in Buffalo that his first priority was to serve the slip holders.
“Some people believe it’s a marina but really, it’s a public park and it’s always been open to the public,” Kearns told News 4 Investigates. “It’s always been free and readily accessible to all members of the community and I think that’s the way it should continue to be.”
In a letter to Rose Harvey, commissioner of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Kearns wrote that the department’s own request for proposals sent out last fall to attract a new operator for the marina specified a goal to “maintain the public aspects of the marina.”
Campbell who has developed marinas and restaurants in Tennessee has pledged to invest up to $10 million to replace docks, renovate the area and build a new restaurant.
DOCUMENT | View the full letter sent to State Parks.
Kearns wrote to Harvey that the marina is already heavily subsidized by the public. The property is publicly owned and, according to the lease, Campbell will enjoy tax exemptions on capital improvements and mortgage recording tax.
Kearns who represents neighborhoods near the outer harbor, Buffalo River and south says the state needs to consider that 30 percent of Buffalo’s population lives in poverty.
“I five dollar fee will impact and restrict this public area for those who cannot afford to pay where this area was never restricted previously,” Kearns wrote.
Kearns said state parks can use its discretion to kill the parking fee.
“Buffalo has always been a waterfront city and now we are closing it to some of our most vulnerable population,” said Kearns.
“The small boat harbor is more than just a marina. It’s a very important place for people in the Western New York community. It’s a place where people go to watch the sun rise and set. It’s a place where people go to walk but also it’s a place where people go to possibly maybe get a meal. For example, some people go to get an ice cream with their families. I’ve done it many times with my family.”
Kearns said he was also concerned about how the parking fee will impact the business at Dug’s Dive, a restaurant at the small boat harbor operated by Tucker Curtin.
Campbell Sunday told News 4 that he plans to institute the $5.00 parking for visitors. The parking will be redesigned so that slip holders get access to areas closest to the marina.
“I think the parking fee to some people is a big deal but really it’s not. It’s just a pasturing fee for the cost of the labor it takes to manage it and manage it properly,” Campbell told News 4.
Curtin said he was concerned the fee might take away from the marina’s community.
“We love the slip-holders and I think they’re very important but I would just hate to see accessibility diminish down here,” he told News 4.
A state parks official told News 4 that there will still be free parking available, but not in the lot next to the marina and Dug’s, which will become premium parking, free for only restaurant patrons and slip-holders.