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Greenway commission endorses Grand Island, Lockport projects


Published:November 18, 2010, 12:00 AM

Updated: November 18, 2010, 9:04 AM

 Plans for a new, 230-acre park on Grand Island and a new nature preserve in Lockport were among the five projects endorsed this week by a state-appointed panel.

The Niagara River Greenway Commission has voted to support each of the five projects, though not all proposals passed unanimously, as is generally the case.

Two commission members voted against endorsing the Grand Island project during the commission's meeting Tuesday, and two votes also were cast against renovations to a building attached to Niagara Falls' Hyde Park ice pavilion.

Commission Chairman Robert J. Kresse voted against the projects in Grand Island, the Town of Lockport and Niagara Falls because he said "they did not advance the concept of a linear greenway from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario."

Among the reasons he offered:

  • The Lockport proposal is located outside of the primary Niagara Greenway boundary.
  • The Grand Island project "lacked connectivity" to the waterfront."
  • The vision of the Greenway is not advanced by upgrading restrooms, as was proposed in the Falls.

The Greenway Commission -- whose membership currently includes six state agencies or authorities as well as six other appointees -- holds no power to fund any projects. That power lies with a series of committees -- who control an annual pot of $9 million -- and is handled through a separate application process.

The Grand Island project, dubbed Scenic Woods-Bicentennial Park, includes more than five miles of recreational and nature trails on land located south of Ransom Road near East River Road.

Town officials have said the budget for the first two phases of the project is $902,000, and design work is planned to begin next summer, according to their submission to the commission.

In addition to the chairman, the state Department of Environmental Conservation representative also voted against the Grand Island proposal.

A spokeswoman for the agency on Wednesday said it did not endorse the project because there was no detail in the town's plans about where the trails would be located.

"The agency was concerned that there was no way to know if the wetland functions would be protected," spokeswoman Megan Gollwitzer wrote in an e-mail.

The City of Niagara Falls got approval for an $830,000 plan to improve a comfort station and lounge attached to the ice pavilion in Hyde Park.

Kresse and Commissioner David Hahn-Baker voted to withhold support from the proposal, which calls for brick work, door, window and roof replacement, as well as upgrades to restroom, shower and banquet facilities.

Hahn-Baker called the proposal "a good project in and of itself," though he questioned how much of the project could be considered essentially operations and maintenance costs versus "new spending."

There were also issues because the project lacked a signage component that would make it common with the larger Greenway system, he said.

A proposal from the Town of Lockport to create a nature preserve just north of the Erie Canal was approved by the commission, with the lone dissenting vote cast by Kresse, the chairman.

The land for the planned preserve was donated by the late William F. Lytle. The project, to be known as the Lytle Nature Preserve, will be connected to the state's Canalway Trail by an asphalt trail. The total cost of the project is $174,435, and the town expects to cover about $80,000 of the costs in next year's budget, it said in documents filed with the commission.

The two other projects endorsed by the commission were a fish habitat study in the Buffalo harbor area and the upper Niagara River by the Research Foundation of the State University of New York; and the development of a regional habitat restoration strategy by Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper.

The commission was created to develop a plan for a continuous, linear system of parks, trails and green spaces along the Niagara River from Youngstown to Buffalo.

The body's 2007 plan came with a total allocation from the New York Power Authority of $450 million available through 2057.