This past Saturday, Captain Bill Zimmermann of Seven Seas Sailing helped to organize a fruitful expedition to the circa 1903 South Buffalo Lighthouse. First of all, you’re probably wondering where this obscure lighthouse is even located. The South Buffalo Lighthouse can be found at the South Gap of the Outer Harbor, at the Bethlehem Steel property. According to Zimmermann, the South Buffalo Lighthouse will one day be Buffalo’s version of Liberty Island for waterfront excursions. He feels that the historic lighthouse will soon be a destination for boaters who will visit the site to learn about the history of the land and the water that surrounds the iconic beacon.
For years, the South Buffalo Lighthouse has sat out of sight and out of mind of the public. That bothers Zimmermann. Why? Because in this day and age, there should be no section of the waterfront that is not open and available to the public. Unfortunately, we all know the story of the industrial wasteland. While the land currently lays fallow, there is a bright spot – the lighthouse – that can be used to tell the story of Lake Erie’s prideful successes as well as its tragic downfalls.
That’s why Zimmermann set out to host eXXpedition Great Lakes – a Seven Seas Sailing waterfront tour that took a number of scientists out to the South Buffalo Lighthouse to test the conditions of the water. The tour was part of an even larger outing that saw even more scientists sweeping the whole of the Great Lakes to record levels of PCB’s, mercury, plastic (micro beads), etc. “We are the fresh water capital of the world,” said Zimmerman. “We have incredible fishing here, and the water is a migratory route for birds. We’re on a mission to tell the story about the history of polluting our waters. We’re still polluting today – we need to curb our dependence on plastic. We use plastic without a care in the world. Plastic bags, plastic cups… so much of it ends up in the Great Lakes. Nine of the ten tests found significant levels of plastic in the Lake Erie waters. If people didn’t live such a disposable lifestyle, that would not be the case. We must start to pay attention to our daily dependence of plastic. The environment surrounding the South Buffalo Lighthouse is an incredible example of the best and the worst of our immediate environment. The lighthouse will be used tell these stories and more.”
In order to get the South Buffalo Lighthouse up to snuff, and ready for visits, members of the Buffalo Lighthouse Association have been working for years to improve accessibility and safety. A new railing is being installed, repairs are underway, and there is a vision to eventually build out an $800K interactive museum. In the meantime, the goal is to get people out to the site via waterfront excursions from Seven Seas Sailing. “Once people see what we’re doing, they want to be a part of it,” said Zimmermann. “For historic purposes, and to act as another steward for the Great Lakes, the South Buffalo Lighthouse will become another waterfront destination. A cadre of aficionados has been working on developing goals for the restoration of the lighthouse for the past ten years. I have provided Seven Seas Sailing as the lead host for all public excursions to the site. We are working on creating limited access currently, with kayaking, hiking and environmental tours. The lighthouse was once the location of a quintessential horn testing lab – we want to tell that story as well as others. I’ve been working with Mike Vogel who is the president of the association – we’ve been setting lofty goals, and Mike has been instrumental in reaching them.”
At this point, Zimmermann is still looking for people to enlist as committee members. He’s in search of waterfront enthusiasts, historians, environmentalists and Buffalo lovers who are seeking a new adventure at the Outer Harbor. If the future of the South Buffalo Lighthouse sounds intriguing to you…
Contact Captain Bill Zimmermann at 716-880-5154