Assemblyman John Ceretto, R-I-Lewiston, State Sen, George Maziarz, R-C-Newfane, Town of Lewiston Councilman Mike Marra, and Lewiston Supervisor Steve Reiter met Wednesday with New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Rose Harvey to discuss several plans to make much-needed short and long-term improvements to Niagara Falls State Park, Joseph Davis State Park and state parks throughout the Niagara Region.
"We must think locally and regionally when it comes to implementing plans to improve our parks," Ceretto said. "Locally, we must empower our towns and municipalities with the ability to make needed improvements to our state parks without having to navigate through layers of bureaucratic red tape."
"On a regional level, we must work with the state to come up with a long-term strategic plan that allows us to compete with Canada for tourist dollars and make Niagara Falls and other parks throughout our region premier tourist destinations," Ceretto said. "I look forward to working closely with Commissioner Harvey, Senator Maziarz and local officials to create and implement the long-term strategy that will put our region back on the map."
Maziarz said, "For too long, our upstate parks system has been underserved by Albany. A large portion of the revenue collected at Niagara Falls State Park, for example, is siphoned off to support state parks in other corners of the state. Moving forward, things have to change. State Parks must be more vigilant with the resources they have, and we must capture more revenue and keep it in the Niagara Region for improvements here."
During the meeting, Maziarz and Ceretto offered two solutions to improving the region's parks. Passing the Niagara Parks Reinvestment Act would keep 50 percent of parking revenue generated at state parks in Niagara County and deposit them in a new "Niagara Parks Reinvestment Fund" for improvements at the same parks. The second solution would be to empower the Town of Lewiston to make improvements at Joseph Davis State Park and New York State Parks.
"Niagara Falls State Park has been treated like a cash cow for the state parks system," Maziarz said. "That has to stop. We need to allow Niagara Falls State Park to keep a portion of the revenue it generates to reinvest in the upkeep and maintenance of the park," said Maziarz. "The Senate passed this bill unanimously a few years ago, but former Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte let it die in the Assembly. We need a better result."
During the meeting, Harvey pledged to work closely with local officials and hold weekly meetings to discuss local initiatives to restore Joseph Davis State Park.
"Going forward, I believe everyone agrees that there needs to be more cooperation on the local and state level and that civic groups and local not-for-profits need to be involved to restore and maintain our parks," Ceretto said.