By Benjamin Joe
The Niagara Greenway Commission met on Tuesday at the Niawanda Park’s pavilion in Tonawanda with two projects to consider and grant Greenway funds to.
The first one was the addition of two bathroom trailers and two pavilions to over 50 acres of prime waterfront open space known as Gratwick Park in North Tonawanda. The area is used as a venue for major events such as boat races and concerts; however, Alex Domaradzki, the project point and director of Youth, Parks, Recreation and Seniors, and others feel that the area is largely unused and could use these additions to create a more favorable attendance to the park all year long.
“Unfortunately, while the great story of the park is that it’s a brownfield site, a former municipal landfill that’s been reclaimed as a park, also it really limits the way people use it in terms of building something, amenities to the park,” Domaradzki said. “It’s very challenging.”
Domaradzki presented to the commission a two-phase project: one phase being the construction of two 15-feet-by-20-feet trailers each furnished with over 200 gallons of water and a 900-gallon waste tank for parkgoers on opposite ends of the greenspace. The price tag for this is $137,000. The first phase also includes building two pavilions projected to cost $172,500.
The second phase would be adding electricity to both pavilions and bathrooms; a projected cost of $150,000.
“This project goes along with what Niagara River Greenway’s vision is all about,” Domaradzki said. “Providing dynamic meeting areas. There’s really not a lot of high tree structures, there’s not a lot of shade areas. Increasing those shade areas with pavilions would be a great opportunity, and the bathrooms create a park where the public wants to stay for longer periods of time.”
Domaradzki also said he expected Gratwick Park to be a good place for a stopping spot for bikers.
The project was voted to be consistent by the Niagara River Greenway Commission.
The second project, however, was not as straight forward as the park in North Tonawanda.
The Joseph Sutherland Farm and Nature Preserve project was sponsored by Terry Lasher and Joan Johnson, both lifelong resident of Miller Road in the Town of Niagara, as well as founders of the Town of Niagara Farmland Conservancy. The group is a not-for-profit organization and seeks to protect open space, some of which is in 26.3 acres of farmland the conservancy would like to buy.
The group already owns 38.2 acres as they were gifted it by Johnson’s family. This area abuts not only the Town of Niagara Veterans’ Memorial Park, but is also in close proximity with the pursued land now being called the Joseph Sutherland Farm.
The conservancy group’s efforts were called noble by the commission, but criticized not only for a lack of physical connections between the two properties and the Veterans’ Memorial Park, but because no other official body, such as the Town Board in Niagara had reviewed the plan and given its blessing.
“(One of the things is whether) it is consistent with the town’s plans now,” Lou Paonessa of New York Power Authority said. “Second is it financially viable.”
“Part of what we’re asking from the community is $1000 in stewardships, but we think we’ll get plenty of volunteers because the people live right there,” Johnson said. “We have some young people who are very motivated.”
“We’re also planning a lot of public programs for fundraisers,” Lasher added.
“Those are all good intentions,” Paonessa said. “But that doesn’t guarantee us it will be that; the way we see it today.”
Lasher and Johnson were asked to work with Greg Stevens, executive director of the Niagara River Greenway Commission, and the commission would table the presentation and take a look at it again in November.
“I really think you should have a conversation with the town about Veterans’ Park and the activity of that this project has on that park,” said Sean Edwards, treasurer of the Niagara River Greenway Commission. “I don’t think it’s a good idea right now to vote. I think that we all want to work with you, and I think that the proper thing would be to connect that somehow with Veterans’ Park. … There is a trail connected right to that park.”
“We all better understand now, but there’s a lot of loose ends,” said Richard Soluri, Greenway Commission vice chairman.
“I suggest you meet with our director at another time. We may not fully understand this the next day, but we meet again in November, I would do that and in November. We can revisit this,” Edwards said. “I think you will be successful.”