by Joshua Maloni
The Niagara River Greenway Commission on Tuesday approved one of two projects submitted by the Town of Lewiston. Commissioners said the renovation of Toohey Park in the Village of Lewiston is consistent with the Greenway Plan. They didn't feel the same way about the Colonial Village Park restoration project, however, and did not endorse the proposal.
"I'm very happy and excited that they supported Toohey Park," Town of Lewiston Supervisor Steve Reiter said after the meeting. "I'm deeply disappointed that they saw Colonial Village was not worthy of their consensus."
The rationale in rejecting the Colonial Village project, which called for new tennis and basketball courts at a total cost of $99,450, was that it was more of a maintenance plan than something that would promote the connectivity of the waterway shared between Erie and Niagara counties.
But Reiter called that rationale "short-sighted in judgment and reasoning." He pointed to other projects approved Monday - including bridge repairs at Niagara Falls State Park - and said, "They are of similar nature."
With regard to the approved project, the town's submission reads: "The purpose of the Toohey Park Greenway Project is to build, create and restore a public park in the Village of Lewiston. Toohey Park directly overlooks the Lower Niagara River and has direct access to the riverfront through a connection with the (Onondaga) Trail, which connects Onondaga Street to Water Street in the Village of Lewiston."
Town Councilman Mike Marra and village Recreation Director Marianne Gittermann described the plan on March 7 at a Village Board meeting. They told trustees the playground is in dire need of safety and equipment upgrades.
The $75,000 project would be divided thusly: $29,162.90 for the playground; $2,212 for wood chips, which would be placed under the playground equipment; $5,670 for a basketball court; $35,089 would be spent on a new comfort (bathroom) station; and $2,866 would go toward site restoration.
Though this project is similar to what was proposed for Colonial Village, the park's location behind the Red Brick Municipal Building made a big difference. Toohey Park overlooks the river and is adjacent to a noted walking trail.
Reiter pointed to a comment made by Greenway Commission Chairman Robert Kresse. He was asked if people could see the Niagara River from Colonial Village Park.
"Based on that reasoning, Town of Niagara can't see the river. Are they entitled to Greenway money? Lewiston-Porter can't see the river. Are they entitled to Greenway money? Of course they are," Reiter said.
He said the Colonial Village project was part of the town's overall park plan. Reiter said councilmen decided to tend to municipal pocket parks first, and Joseph Davis State Park second.
"This is the last park in Lewiston that hasn't been touched by Greenway money," he said.
"Lewiston has made sure our infrastructure and parks are taken care of first," Reiter added. "I'm really disappointed that (commissioners) didn't see that."
The Town of Lewiston may ultimately receive Greenway funding for both parks. The Greenway Commission does not dole out funds, but simply serves as a recommending board. The Host Community Greenway Fund Standing Committee administers and oversees projects financed by the Host Community Greenway Fund. The standing committee is comprised of one representative each from the New York Power Authority and seven host communities: Niagara County, the City of Niagara Falls, the Town of Lewiston, the Town of Niagara, the Niagara Falls City School District, the Lewiston-Porter School District and the Niagara Wheatfield School District.
As part of the 2007 relicensing agreement between the state of New York and NYPA, the electricity generating company agreed to provide $450 million over 50 years to fund Greenway projects. The host community committee receives $3 million annually.