Assemblyman John Ceretto, R-I-Lewiston, and State Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, sent a letter Wednesday to New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Rose Harvey in order to find out what steps her department is taking to revitalizing state parks throughout Niagara County and to win support for legislation to restructure the state's funding to provide more local control over park resources and revenues.
The letter follows a meeting between Ceretto, Harvey, Maziarz and Lewiston Town Supervisor Steve Reiter held in June in which $3 million in improvement funds were committed to Niagara Falls State Park. The proposed transfer of Joseph Davis Park as well as legislation to allow Niagara Falls State Park to retain more of its own revenue also were discussed.
"It has been nearly four months since our meeting with Commissioner Harvey, and I believe the community has the right to know how the parks department's $3 million has been used to improve Niagara Falls State Park," Ceretto said. "Niagara Falls State Park and other state parks are important parts of our region's tourism industry and there needs to be a comprehensive plan adopted on how the state and local governments maintain these local treasures."
"For too long we have seen parks across the river in Canada thrive, while ours fall into disrepair," Maziarz said. "Albany needs to make similar investments in the region's parks to help us compete more effectively for tourist dollars or allow the Legislature to alter the funding structure of the parks to give locals more control over the maintenance of our parks."
To address a lack of funding for the region's state parks, Ceretto and Maziarz have proposed legislation to make New York pay property taxes on its parkland, which is currently done in 13 other locations across the state. Their Niagara Parks Reinvestment Act also would allow Niagara Falls State Park to keep a portion of its parking revenue for use in park improvements.
Ceretto and Maziarz would like to know how the New York State Park's Department is utilizing the $3 million it receives each year from the Niagara River Greenway Commission. To that end, the lawmakers are requesting a detailed itemization of how that funding has been used each of the past 10 years.
"The Niagara River Greenway funding is specifically meant for Niagara County and we want to ensure the money is being used as it is intended, to enhance Western New York and the region's parks," Ceretto said.