by Joshua Maloni
Town of Lewiston Councilman Mike Marra outlined a plan Monday to radically transform Marilyn Toohey Park behind the Red Brick Municipal Building on North Fourth Street. He presented a packet of information to the Village of Lewiston Board of Trustees detailing the creation of a new playground, a refurbished basketball court and a standalone unisex bathroom.
Marra, a former Village of Lewiston trustee and deputy mayor, said the town will seek $75,000 in Greenway Plan funds to pay for the park.
The proposal states, "the implementation of these (changes) will have a net positive effect on the connectivity of parks within the Niagara River Greenway. It is (the belief of the Town and Village of Lewiston) that the implementation of these (changes) will increase the amount of public use of the existing park by providing a more suitable play area for children, residents and visitors to the park and its system of trails."
The Town of Lewiston is one of the host communities entitled to a portion of an annual $3 million pie through the New York Power Authority's relicensing agreement.
"(Greenway funds) are not taxpayer money in any way," Marra said. "It's all NYPA money from the settlement, and spent that way."
Village Recreation Director Marianne Gittermann, who has worked with Marra in obtaining price quotes, said, "I think it will be a good plan for Marilyn Toohey Park. We have to remember that that park is the only playground in the Village of Lewiston. And it also connects with the Onondaga Trail. It connects with the Seaway Trail, too. So, it's in a good location. We have two or three festivals a year in the park. Plus, I know it's been used for the triathlon; it's been used for the hospital's 5K runs and things like that. So, it's used by a big variety of people - big variety of ages: from the toddlers using the playground up to the guys using the basketball courts."
"If we can proceed with this, we'll be very fortunate," she added.
The Town of Lewiston will formally vote on this project on Monday. If approved, councilmen will submit the plan to the Greenway Commission by March 16. After 60 days (30 for public comments, and 30 for review), that committee will determine if the proposal is consistent with the Greenway Plan.
"I think they'll find it consistent," Marra said.
The plan states, "Whereas this park has a direct connection to both the waterfront and the existing waterfront walking trails, it is the opinion of the Town of Lewiston that this proposal will further enhance access, convenience and use of existing connections recognized by the Niagara Greenway Commission."
The Village Board voted to pass a resolution supporting Marra's proposal.
"As far as going along with it, I have no problem," Mayor Terry Collesano said.
"We've never had bathrooms on that park. Every time we've had events, we've always had to get portable toilets for everybody. ... I think it's great to do this and tie it in," Trustee Vic Eydt said.
Of the $75,000, $29,162.90 will go toward the playground. Another $2,212 will be spent on wood chips, which will be placed under the playground equipment. The new basketball court will cost $5,670, while the bathroom will be sent out for bids.
The proposal describes the current playground pieces as "inadequate, aged, and fail to meet the needs of the local population." It says the basketball court "fails to meet appropriate levels of safety and functionality." The modifications would "upgrade the attractiveness and functionality of the entire park."
Also in the plan, it's noted, "there is no public restroom or comfort station access on or around the Onondaga Trail or within the natural village boundaries of the lower Niagara River system of walking trails."
For more information on the Greenway Plan, click here.