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Joe Davis Park proposals discussed at board session

by jmaloni
Sat, Mar 5th 2011 09:00 am

by Terry Duffy

Residents heard more Monday evening on the growing range of possibilities eyed for Joseph Davis State Park. The discussions followed an agreement finalized hours earlier that day by the Town of Lewiston and New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation on a 10-year lease.

Dr. Loren K. Smith, director of the Buffalo Audubon Society, detailed what he called "two aspects of a larger plan" for Joe Davis in a board presentation. Included are plans to maintain and enhance the park's ecological context and a proposal for upwards of $5 million to be spent on a nature center at the park.

Smith spoke of the value of Joe Davis as a birding site and called for maintaining ponds on its southern and eastern areas as well as maintaining the park's prominent natural setting. He said Joseph Davis serves as a flyway stop for Arctic migratory birds traveling to Central and South America. "We have migratory birds coming from thousands of miles that happen to land here," said Smith, telling board members the park is an untapped resource for bird watchers and eco-tourism.

To complement the park's ecological context, Smith proposed a state-of-the-art nature center, calling it "a gateway for the enjoyment of the park." Envisioned on the site of the former pool, now demolished, and still standing changing rooms and snack stand buildings, Smith said the center would contain classrooms and an outdoor microcosm habitat, featuring an integrated design of the area's natural settings, including a gorge, waterfalls and flatlands. "We view microcosm habitats as a great teaching ladder," said Smith.

"You'll begin your journey in the outdoors at the nature center," he continued. "It's part of the journey as you visit Joseph Davis."

Smith said the Buffalo Audubon Society is moving on a $195,000 Greenway-funded study on various park proposals with the Buffalo Ecological Society. He said actual funding for the $5 million nature center would come via private donations and sponsors.

Construction could begin as soon as this fall with the facility possibly open by next year, once everything falls into place, Smith said.

Town Supervisor Steve Reiter, who has been spearheading the town takeover of Joe Davis since last year, praised Smith on the plans. "This is an exciting time for Lewiston," said Reiter, noting that the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service has even expressed interest in opening a district office at the park.

"This is a phenomenal example of turning Joe Davis around," added Town Councilman Ernie Palmer.

Reiter said town discussions with stakeholders on the park would continue, with Town Council members Ron Winkley and Mike Marra expected to facilitate them. Representatives of the Niagara Fisheries Board, who visited earlier to discuss a possible man-made fish hatchery and trout stream, are expected to return on March 14, and an unnamed investors group is expected to visit on March 28 to discuss possibilities for a campsite at the park.

In other news from the session:

•Reiter and the board heard from resident Paulette Glasgow, who had questions on $40,000 in town spending last year for fences installed at the Lewiston Dog Park. Glasgow argued it was never formally approved in board sessions and told the board the state comptroller's office is now looking into the matter. "If it's serious enough for the state comptroller to look into it, why aren't you," asked Glasgow. She called the board "the accountability police" and demanded an investigation.

In response, Palmer said that, as far as he was concerned, the board and town attorneys properly handled the matter last year.

•Resident Amy Witryol announced her resignation from the town's Community Advisory Committee for Chemical Waste Management as of Feb. 14. Witryol said the Town Board in executive session Feb. 14 had acted to rescind the appointments of all existing CAC members. She charged that Reiter and the board's opting to replace CAC appointments were done in order to favor the committee's balance towards CWM expansion.

•The Town Board approved a negative declaration for parking lot expansion at Niagara University. Approved earlier by the town's Planning Board, the negative declaration was seen as a procedural move enabling construction to begin. New parking construction would take place on areas adjacent to the Dwyer Ice Arena and the Timon and O'Shea parking areas.

Town Building Inspector Tim Masters said the project does not provide for any additional parking at NU, but merely replaces parking eliminated earlier as a result of the science building construction on campus. "Niagara University does not provide enough parking" as it is, said Masters.

•On a related move, the Town Board approved naming Masters as the town's State Environmental Quality Review officer for town projects.

•Reiter reminded visitors the town will be participating in a tri-town meeting with the Town of Porter and Town of Niagara to discuss formation of a municipal electrical company. The session will be held Monday, March 21, at Town of Porter Hall beginning at 6 p.m. A follow-up session will occur at 6 p.m., Tuesday, March 29, with a federal representative expected to visit. Both meetings are open to the public.

•••

Clarification on Witryol board comments

In last week's Sentinel article on the Lewiston Town Board's Feb. 28 regular meeting, it was briefly reported that Lewiston resident Amy Witryol, in announcing her Feb. 14 resignation from the town's Community Advisory Committee for Chemical Waste Management, "had charged that (Supervisor) Steve Reiter and the board's opting to replace the CAC appointments was done to favor committee's balance towards CWM expansion."

Reviewing the session further finds that Witryol, in her lengthy remarks, had, in fact, directed her comments to Reiter and not the Town Board. "Mr. Reiter told me today he does not believe the two most recent appointments are in favor of CWM expansion," said Witryol in her comments on Feb. 28. "However, an extensive, well-documented public record (which Witryol attributes to state Department of Environmental Conservation public hearings and letters to the editor) shows their explicit support of CWM expansion. ...

"Their records are very clear and it is at conflict with the town's position."

She continued, "The DEC and the public record shows that they have not done their homework prior to making public statements ... instead they have been largely informed by CWM rather than the regulators, and those knowledgeable and without conflict. ...

"Replacing residents with extensive knowledge of CWM's industry, regulations, permitting and financial analysis with CWM advocates is what Mr. Reiter refers to as 'balancing' the CAC.  In a regulatory setting, it is called negotiating against ourselves, and that is a betrayal of the public trust. I welcome diverse opinions and new information, but those opinions should not be empowered with  appointments to a regulated entity unless or until the town adopts those positions.

"My positions on CWM expansion are identical to the town's. I wish the board well and am grateful for the support extended to me over the years by Mr. Winkley, Mr. Bax, Mr. Palmer and Mr. Marra."

Reiter made the appointments of Robert DiFrancisco, James Mandell, Gary Catlin, Ronald Craft and Dr. Mark Gallo to the CWM CAC on Feb 14 following a Town Board executive session.

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