by Joshua Maloni
The Niagara River Greenway Commission unanimously endorsed all 11 plans put forward in the first round of project submissions. At the board's meeting on Tuesday, 10 commissioners and chairman Robert Kresse signed off on proposals ranging from maintenance at Old Fort Niagara to the reconfiguration of green space on Grand Island.
Speaking on the quality and diversity of the projects presented for Greenway funding, Lewiston Mayor Richard Soluri, commission vice chair, said, "I thought it was exceptional; there was a lot of thought put into this."
As part of its relicensing agreement last year, the New York Power Authority agreed to provide $450 million over 50 years to seed ventures in keeping with the Greenway Plan. Four standing committees - one each for Niagara and Erie counties, state parks and ecological interests - will determine which projects receive funding.
Two Northern Niagara County projects received a complimentary opinion from the Greenway Commission. The board found Old Fort Niagara's request for maintenance-related monetary assistance to be consistent with the Greenway Plan. The group also favored the Lewiston Historical Association's intent to build a Freedom Crossing Monument.
"It really fits all the criteria," Fort Niagara Executive Director Robert Emerson said of refurbishing the historic site. "We need to maintain Old Fort Niagara so it remains a very strong attraction for out-of-town guests."
"We're delighted that we cleared this hurdle," he added.
The Historical Association's project was the first to be approved by the Greenway Commission.
"We were flattered that the Historical Association was part of history," Lee Simonson said. "We're proud to be the first Greenway project to gain approval; the first of hundreds of projects that will come."
In the Historical Association's submittal, the monument is said to fit "perfectly with the Greenway philosophy because it will represent the historical value of the river, which borders Canada. It will serve to protect the riverfront as a sacred piece of history, while at the same time informing visitors of one of the most significant historical events in our nation's history."
Simonson, the Historical Association's vice president and project director, said the monument would take between 14 and 18 months to be completed. He said if everything goes smoothly, his organization would plan an unveiling for September 2009.
The model, which Simonson said would enhance Lewiston's historic reputation, has also gained the support of the Lower Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce and the Village of Lewiston.
"We're working with everyone we can to see that this project gets done," Simonson said.
While the Greenway Commission itself has no ability to provide funding, its determination of project consistency is vital in submissions receiving money from a standing committee.
In other words, the board determines "not the amount, nor the funding, but rather (a project's) relation to the Greenway Plan," Kresse said.
A board endorsement is not a guarantee that funding will be provided. The direct relationship between the Greenway Commission's input and the standing committees' decision-making process is still a work in progress.
In a prepared statement, Kresse said, "During our deliberations, we recognized that the commission as a whole has an important role beyond the simple assent or dissent as to whether a proposed project is consistent with the Greenway Plan. We look forward to defining this role in the future by providing comments on the various projects, which we trust will assist the standing committee in their funding decisions."
With regard to the second set of submittals, each of which was due by Tuesday, he said, "The procedures necessary to address these key points will be developed and applied to the next round of projects that are brought before the Niagara River Greenway Commission for review."
The Greenway Commission will vote on round two as part of its March 18 meeting.
In a nutshell ...
The 8-to-10-foot monument, cast in bronze, would honor those who helped transport slaves across the Niagara River. In the memorial, Underground Station Master Josiah Tryon is pictured handing a small child to his mother, seated in a rowboat. His father will be seen on shore looking toward Canada.
The project is hands-on, and visitors can actually sit in the boat.
The estimated cost, including mason work, is $974,000 with an additional $194,800 needed for planning and design.
The standing committees consist of:
To view the list of first round projects endorsed, and see second round submittals, visit www.niagaragreenway.org.