Gateway to Island formally opened
by Larry Austin
Grand Island opened a new "gateway" at a ribbon-cutting for the new Fisherman's Landing on East River Road.
Town and state government officials gathered Tuesday, May 15, to formally open the landing, which sits in the shadows of the South Grand Island Bridge. The project turned an abandoned wastewater treatment facility into public access to the waterfront.
The event concluded a project years in the making. Town Supervisor Mary Cooke said wastewater treatment began in 1938 and the site continued operations into the 1980s. Her research showed that Planning Board minutes from March 12, 1984, included a report on a public hearing for proposals to develop a fishing and recreation spot on the property.
"The project received much attention at meetings and on paper for the next 15-plus years, but funding to do the work never materialized," Cooke said. In 2006, GI resident and architect Doug Scheid "graciously and generously volunteered his firm's services to prepare a concept plan that could be used in grant proposals."
Scheid's work got the ball rolling, Cooke said, and in June of 2007, a grant application was the first successful funding step. In 2008, Fisherman's Landing was funded in the first round of Niagara River Greenway Erie County Standing Committee projects.
Cooke credited Greenway Commissioner-emeritus Paul Leuchner "as an early champion" of the project who encouraged the town to submit its plans for Fisherman's Landing to the commission for funding. Leuchner was on the Greenway Commission and is "responsible for getting the town moving" on the project, she said.
Leuchner "undoubtedly had much to do with the success of this project," said Robert J. Kresse, chairman, Niagara River Greenway Commission, in an email to the Town Board.
Leuchner "lives nearby and takes a personal interest in care and maintenance of this facility," Cooke said, pointing out that Leuchner found an old sign in the bushes a couple weeks ago that said: "Keep Out Property of Grand Island"
"It clearly shows how far we've come," Cooke said, holding the sign. "So we've gone from 'Keep out' to 'Please come in and enjoy our facilities.' And we are most pleased that we have made that transformation.' "
Rob Belue, executive director of the Niagara River Greenway Commission, said he came to the area from South Florida 15 years ago, and "came over the bridge going towards Niagara Falls and I looked down and saw ... this wastewater plant? That's a gateway to this area?" Belue asked.
Greenway money, part of the relicensing benefits of the New York Power Authority's Niagara project, is designed to help transform properties into gateways, one of the goals of the Greenway initiative, Belue said, a mission accomplished at Fisherman's Landing.
"This, now, Mary, is a gateway," Belue said to Cooke.