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Creation of the first public beach within city limits drew a step closer Wednesday.
A study on the outer harbor to test beach sand at Gallagher Beach and a parcel where the ice boom had been stored was approved by Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. The green light came after a water quality study recommended by County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz showed acceptable bacteria levels in 35 of 37 tests.
The $359,520 contract to Nature's Way Environmental Services will now allow tests of whether the sand can be sustained. It will be surveyed in the fall and again next spring, and it will be inspected regularly during the winter.
"We are going to build a pool almost like a bathtub to get the water out of there, put the sand in and then let the tides, the winds [and] the currents prevail and then see what happens to the sand," said Thomas P. Dee, the agency's president.
"The goal, obviously, is that we hope the sand stays in place, and then we will be able to make a recommendation down the road for the first swimming beaches in Buffalo, which would be a wonderful, wonderful thing for us to have."
Maria Whyte, the county's director of Environment and Planning, is enthusiastic about the project.
"We are excited about the result that came back from the Department of Health. The truth is, people have been swimming at Gallagher Beach for years; they just haven't been doing it legally. So the idea we would be able to get through with a study like this and potentially have a sand beach down there for the public to enjoy is really exciting."
In other developments:
. Robert Gioia was elected chairman of the waterfront agency. Sam Hoyt had held the interim position for six months after Jordan Levy's resignation, and he will remain a member of the board.
. Dee noted that there were 425 events at Canalside during the summer and about 500,000 visitors. He said the agency learned several things, including the need for a longer season and for a schedule with fewer gaps.
. Also, Dee said a "request for qualifications" is due Tuesday for infrastructure improvements to Ohio Street, a 1.4-mile link between Canalside and the outer harbor. The envisioned parkway calls for bike lanes, sidewalks, heritage and Greenway trail signs and landscaping.

email: msommer@buffnews.com