By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
State Sen. Chris Jacobs told the state's public process in closing the West River Parkway and turning into a multi-modal connector trail "flawed."
In a letter dated Feb. 9 to Mark W. Thomas, Western District director of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Jacobs, who represents Grand Island in the 60th District of the New York State Senate, told Thomas that his office has been contacted by many Grand Island residents regarding State Park's plans for West River Parkway.
"I have received calls and emails in favor and opposed to the bike path conversion. The only element in common with all those who have contacted me seems to be anger and frustration and that leads me to a conclusion that the public process was flawed," Jacobs wrote.
"I realize New York State Park's has decided to proceed with this project. However, it is my hope that a more concerted effort is made to truly reach out to stakeholders as important decisions will be made to the final plans and operation of this new trail, with a particular sensitivity to the West River homeowners who will be the ones experiencing a significant change to their daily lives due to this conversion of West River Parkway," Jacobs said.
Jacobs asked for three specific assurances from Thomas' office before this project proceeds.
•Identity of ownership of the parkway once it is closed, and whether it will be designated as State Park property.
•Legally-binding documentation that the land along the parkway will not be made available for any private development.
•Confirmation that future maintenance of the parkway will be handled by State Parks, and that a maintenance plan "should be fully vetted with the residents living in proximity to the parkway," and assurances that State Parks will adhere to this maintenance plan and schedule.
"Let me be clear, I do not believe any construction work should commence before these concerns are vetted and resolved," Jacobs told Thomas.
"It is my hope these assurances, as well as an open line of communication with the town and West River residents moving forward, will go a long way to ease some of the acrimony that has unfortunately been a part of this issue for too long," he concluded.
Jacobs copied all five members of the Grand Island Town Board in his letter.