by Terry Duffy
The year 2011 is now fading into memory.
As we eagerly anticipate what's to come in 2012, we now look back at what was 2011. It was certainly memorable, with changes, countless ones, on a global, national, local, and even a personal scale.
For some it was a year of high expectations, some achieved. For others it might have been frustrations, possibly loss. You can say one thing though - we were all impacted by the events that occurred in the last year in some form or another.
What follows is a brief look at some of the major news reported on in the Sentinel coverage area over the past year. News, which will likely continue to impact area residents in 2012 and beyond.
•The Lake Ontario Ordinance Works.
In 2011, the Sentinel reported extensively on the various environmental concerns affecting portions of the historic World War II-era LOOW site, a massive property, once 7,500 acres in size, that's located on the borders of Lewiston and Porter. Topping the news in September was the long-waited plan by government overseer, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to pursue hoped-for remedial/cleanup action of the radioactive contaminated Interim Waste Containment Structure.
Lewiston and Porter area residents long familiar with LOOW's history have for years sought some type of government action on the IWCS, a temporary 13-acre cell housing high level radioactive wastes, constructed in the mid-1980s and located on Pletcher Road. The Corps, which has been involved in LOOW site activities for decades, unveiled IWCS studies and plans in 2009. Just this September it announced a lengthy feasibility study process to thoroughly review the IWCS and determine its future fate.
Decisions on what could be ultimately a $4 billion government cleanup project have yet to be made. Over the next one to two years, the Corps said it will be holding a series of workshops and community forums, all intended to better inform residents on the environmental realities of the oft-mysterious IWCS and to better plot a path in determining its ultimate future. Stay tuned to the Sentinel on the expected news updates over coming months.
The multitude of LOOW and IWCS issues also saw involvement this past year by two similar, but also very distinct, citizens groups - the LOOW Restoration Advisory Board and the recently formed LOOW Community Action Council. The two are comprised of citizens, primarily locals, with varying degrees of expertise, but all with a dedicated focus on helping government overseers determine and resolve the many environmental concerns affecting the LOOW site. They meet regularly, usually at the Lewiston-Porter School District campus, and very much welcome community input. For further information, visit their respective websites at http://loowrab.com and www.loowcac.org.
•Joseph Davis State Park.
In 2011 this facility was again in the news. A decades-old interest item to local residents, in 2011 we saw a number of discussions taking place concerning the roughly 200-acre-plus park located in the northern part of Lewiston.
In January, Lewiston Town Supervisor Steve Reiter, who has expressed interest in rejuvenating the park since first winning election as supervisor in 2009, announced that the town had reached a 10-year agreement with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation to take over operations of the park.
And almost as soon as agreements were final, the town began to take action. Maintenance agreements were reached in February and by spring and summer the long neglected park was coming back to life with refurbishing done by the Lewiston Highway Department. Lawns were cut, facilities repaired and by summer the park was clean and attractive, a far cry from a year earlier when grass had reached shoulder height due to State Parks' inaction on maintenance due to the state's budget crisis.
The town also began organizing individuals, both local and from out of town, to assist it in planning the park's future. The Joe Davis Park Local Development Corp. came into existence and news began to happen.
Last spring saw a series of presentations at Lewiston Town Board meetings on potential projects eyed by the town for the state-owned and town-rented JDP. Included was an Audubon Society Nature and Cultural Center, plus a fish hatchery and visitation center with potential involvement by local and regional sport fishing interests and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Presented at another session was a plan for The Lodge and Conference Center at Joseph Davis Park by representatives of the DeMarco Group of Rochester and area architectural and marketing consultants.
As of this writing, other than continued park maintenance by the town, including keeping the park's access road open this winter, no development has yet to occur at the park, as no funding commitment structures for new projects have yet to occur. The JDPLDC continues to meet on proposals. In November, the Lewiston Town Board authorized Reiter to submit an application to the Niagara River Greenway Commission to fund the JDP proposals. As of this week no application has yet to be posted on the Greenway Commission's website by the Town of Lewiston for Joe Davis Park Greenway funding. So at this point it remains a watch item for 2012.
•Youngstown Mayor Neil C. Riordan.
On Thursday, Sept. 29, the Village of Youngstown and northern Niagara County lost a dear and respected friend with the passing of Cornelius C. "Neil" Riordan, 66, longtime popular mayor who died following a brief illness.
Born in Niagara Falls, he was the only son of the late Cornelius (Connie) and Kathleen Riordan.
Riordan was deeply committed to public service, serving for the last 10 years as the mayor of Youngstown and as village trustee for the 22 years prior. He cared deeply for the village and worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for all Youngstown residents.
During his tenure in office, he was responsible for the creation of the Friday Night Summer Concert Series in Falkner Park and instrumental in fundraising; the transformation of the South Dock Waterfront Park on Water Street; and the revitalization of the village parks and business district. He believed strongly in the importance of leading by example to help people and serve the community. In his own words, "Public service is not politics, and we are very proud of that here. When people call, you respond."
The Village of Youngstown and the entire northern county region will forever remember Riordan as a caring individual and a respected mayor, one who went that extra length for his community.
Other significant news this year can be found in the numerous memorable festivals and truly fun events that northern Niagara County had the fortune of being a part of in 2011.
Here's just a few of the many we covered:
•The Youngstown Volunteer Fire Co. observed its 100th year of service to the community in 2011 with a number of community events, including YVFC's annual officers' inductions in February, the YVFC's Field Days and Labor Day celebrations in late summer, a fire company members' celebration in November, plus other recognitions throughout the year.
•The countless festivals. Beyond Lewiston, which is regarded by many as the epicenter when it comes to festivals, there were events of interest and enjoyment for residents of the northern Niagara County and Western New York areas and beyond throughout the year. We have all come to know and appreciate Lewiston - home to such biggies as the Lewiston Garden Fest, Lewiston Art Festival, Lewiston Jazz Festival and Niagara County Peach Festival, plus numerous others.
But there's also many more throughout the county, which graced the Sentinel's pages in 2011. Included were: the annual Olcott Polar Bear Swim in early March; spring and summer street dances in Youngstown and in Ransomville; the early June Med Fest; the Youngstown Yacht Club's 80th anniversary celebration and annual Level Regatta in July; plus Old Fort Niagara's Soldiers of the Revolution celebrations and the Fort's encampments in the summer. Still others were the War of 1812 Bicentennial observances; a farm festival in Sanborn; motorcycle rallies in Wilson, the Newfane Town Celebration; fall craft and harvest festivals; plus major holiday events in Lewiston, Youngstown, Newfane, Wilson and beyond.
Yes, 2011 was certainly a busy and newsworthy one, with impacts of some form on all of us. Good, bad or indifferent, the memories of 2011 will be with us forever.