By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
The idle Scenic Woods project awoke Monday with the board voting 4-1 to authorize the town attorney to prepare bond authorization documents that would keep the project alive.
If the town does not rebond the nature trail project, probably at an August meeting, "That project is over," said Town Supervisor Nathan McMurray.
"We'll never get money for it again. We'll never be able to do it," he said during a workshop meeting Monday.
Councilman Pete Marston said Monday was "D-Day" for Scenic Woods.
Councilman Mike Madigan was the lone vote against authorizing the town attorney to storm the beaches and prepare bond documents for Scenic Woods. He bemoaned the cost of the project, which has ballooned from an original bond of $400,000 to a new bond of $845,000. The town isn't on the hook for those entire costs, as town accountant Pam Barton explained when she told Madigan during a Monday work session, "For another $126,500 you can have a completed project. Otherwise you're throwing away $220,000."
"Those numbers don't add up, Pam," Madigan said.
McMurray said the project sat idle and additional costs piled up over time, including bills for updating engineering plans because "It had to be redone multiple times."
"That's completely off the rails, though," Madigan said of the costs.
Councilwoman Jennifer Baney also listed a string of state regulations from the Department of Environmental Conservation that over time have added costs to the project, such as a more than $200,000 tab to wrap the project in biofiber.
According to an application by the town to the Niagara River Greenway Commission in 2010, the Scenic Woods parcel comprises 260 acres and is bisected by East River Road. It includes 600 feet of frontage along the East River and a portion of Gun Creek. Trails and boardwalks measuring approximately 2.7 miles would run along an east-west course to allow access from proposed parking lots and adjoining neighborhoods.
The Town of Grand Island owns the land, acquiring it in 1999. Back in 2010, the town applied for Greenway funding for planning, construction and operation of the trails.
Madigan called the project a "want, not a need."
During the public comment period of the meeting, Highway Superintendent Dick Crawford spoke to the board on the matter and said, "As a former member of the Town Board, we made a great decision years back to buy that property." He said the town advisory boards at the time "saw the vision that the Town Board had in bringing this to a park-like setting."
Crawford commended the current Town Board for moving to spend money on Scenic Woods, saying, "It will be a great asset for our citizens for 100 years to come."