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Construction to convert West River Parkway into trail to begin April 16

Sat, Apr 14th 2018 07:05 am
The Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation announced this week that work to convert the West River Parkway into an 8-mile multi-use trail will begin on Monday, April 16.
The $2.5 million NY Parks 2020 project will turn two lanes of highway into a vehicle-free multi-use trail that runs along the Niagara River from Beaver Island State Park to Buckhorn State Park ultimately connecting the City of Buffalo to Niagara Falls.
"Connecting our communities to our waterfronts enhances tourism opportunities and energizes economic development," said State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. "This transformation along the West Niagara River, one of the more beautiful places in New York, will become a popular destination for bikers, walkers and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds."
State Parks is using a $1.6 million federal transportation grant and $900,000 from the New York Power Authority and the Niagara River Greenway and expects the trail to be completed this fall. Currently, the West River Parkway is a seasonal, two-lane, 55-mile-per-hour state highway that runs along the Niagara River, which is home to migrating birds and other wildlife as well as beautiful sunsets. The new multi-use trail will include furnishings and interpretive signage, landscaping and year-round access to the water.
"With this work, supported by federal and state funding, we invest in Grand Island and provide residents with new opportunities to explore the water's edge, connect to a network of waterfront trails to the north and south, and experience the great Niagara River vistas in a new and exciting way," said U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, who represents Grand Island in Congress.
Grand Island Supervisor Nate McMurray said, "Grand Island is a unique and beautiful place. 80 percent of North America's freshwater - and 20 percent of the world's freshwater - flows around it. Once the West River Parkway multi-use path is in place, that riverfront will be opened for everyone to enjoy. Having that space available for safe and accessible recreation will be a gift for Grand Island and for all of Western New York."
Not everyone is celebrating the announcement, least of all the members of the West River Home Owners Association, who have fought the closure of the parkway all along.
In letters to State Sen. Chris Jacobs, West River residents Reg Schopp and Richard Garlapow cited safety among the problems with closing the parkway.
"Closing the parkway causes serious safety issues; it is a functioning road and it needs to be maintained year round," Schopp wrote. "The accident rates on the alternate path roads are significantly affected when the parkway isn't plowed, it will be a problem moving forward.
"The cost to maintain the roads from the diverted traffic has never been addressed."
Garlapow told Jacobs, "As you know, closing the parkway flies in the face of our governor's expressed desire to promote tourism attractions in WNY. This scenic parkway draws thousands of tourists in cars on their way to Niagara Falls. A new bike path parallel to the road would be an added attraction and should not be used as an excuse by NYS Parks to close the parkway.
"You already know about the serious safety issues of re-routing daily heavy commuter traffic onto three separate residential streets if the parkway were to be closed. It is insane to do that."
Councilman Mike Madigan has put an item on Monday's meeting agenda alleging that Town Supervisor Nathan McMurray received a State Environmental Quality Review Act lead agency designation request from the state "that required review and action by the Town of Grand Island board regarding the West River Parkway Connector Trail project."
"This request was never provided to the Town Board - a serious violation considering the failure to respond within 30 days forfeits the town's involvement in this process and denied the town any input regarding their serious concerns with this project."
Madigan said the lead agency designation in the SEQR process "provides the opportunity to communicate information that could influence a determination of significance - an action that may have impacted this project and may have changed its course. This opportunity was denied the town and its residents by one person who had no authority to do so."

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