by Terry Duffy
The Town of Lewiston has joined a select group of Western New York communities that have opted to assume management of state parks in response to closures.
News from the Lewiston Town Board's Feb. 14 work session finds the town approved a one-year agreement with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to assume maintenance responsibilities for Joseph Davis State Park. The 375-acre park located in the northern portion of Lewiston on its boundary with Porter has been underused for a number of years, and fell victim to neglect as state budget woes mounted in 2010. Lewiston Supervisor Steve Reiter, who spearheaded the move, was among many who blasted State Parks officials for the lengthy closure last spring at Joe Davis and the park neglect, which included what he called "chin-high" grass. He initiated calls last summer for a town takeover. "It could be the answer," said Reiter last fall, to what he called "the long-standing problem" of disuse at Joe Davis. He went on to offer a wish list of ideas for the park, which ranged from a nature preserve to camping and recreational possibilities.
Following a worsening of state finances and the announced closing of the park on Jan. 1 due to budget woes, the town moved further on its discussions with NYSOPRHP and reached agreement to assume maintenance of Joe Davis. In doing so Lewiston joins the Town of Hamburg, which assumed management of Woodlawn Beach on Lake Erie and the Town of Aurora, which took control of Knox Farm State Park.
"It (the town's takeover) could be a perfect utilization of Greenway money," said Reiter, noting the funding mechanism availed to Lewiston as part of the 2007 Power Authority relicensing settlement package. "The agreement (with Parks) provides for maintenance this year and opens the door to future discussions at Joe Davis," he said.
Reiter said his office has been in discussion with such groups as the Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, the Audubon Society, the U.S. Forest Service and others on long-term possibilities for the park. In addition to trails and various recreational offerings, the park has a 27-hole disc golf course and a fishing pier on the Niagara River, both popular and both expected to be open and maintained for 2011.
More on the Joe Davis situation as news develops.
In other news from the session:
•Reiter announced he has begun discussion with Supervisor Steve Richards from the Town of Niagara and Supervisor Mert Wiepert from Porter on the possibility of establishing a municipal electrical agency serving the power needs of residents in the three towns. The preliminary discussions have come about due to anticipated changes this year in the power discount schedule availed to Lewiston residents by National Grid.
Reiter said Town Board members of all three towns would be meeting in a joint session Monday, March 21, at 6 p.m. in Porter Town Hall to discuss the idea further. The session is open to the public.
•Councilman Ernie Palmer informed that Lewiston Police reached tentative agreement on contract discussions with Local 264 and the town. He presented a motion, approved soon after, for the board to review the matter further and return to Local 264 for further discussion.
•The Town Board approved a request for the filling of five part-time positions, to be done via Civil Service hiring, to cover non-union security-related evening openings at the town's Water Pollution Control Center that were created by removal of a full time operator's position at WPCC.
•In a related matter, the board approved Reiter to assume the title of stormwater management officer with no salary until the position is filled. The opening was created with the retirement of Tim Lockhart as WPCC administrator last fall.