By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
The Grand Island Town Board’s workshop meeting Monday was its first chance to discuss mowing on the West River Connector Trail since the state revisited its maintenance plans last week.
Western District Director Mark Mistretta of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation mailed a letter June 13 to residents about revised mowing plans on the West River following a stakeholder meeting organized by Councilwoman Bev Kinney.
Kinney told the board during the workshop in Town Hall that she emailed Angela Berti of State Parks about the grass mowing after receiving “lots of complaints, lots of concerns” from residents.
“This is not working,” Kinney said of the previous maintenance along West River. “And we understand, all of us did, the weather has been miserable for three months, but you definitely can say that the grass is unusually high, 3-and-a-half and 4 feet in some areas.”
Board members met with the state and West River Home Owners Association leaders and residents to see action on mowing, which they received in the form of the letter from Mistretta describing changes to a 50/50 plan, “50% lawn and 50% meadow. However, after receiving numerous phone calls as well as input at this meeting, we have revisited that plan and will instead mow much more than initially planned. As such, we will execute an 80/20 plan – 80% lawn and 20% meadow.
“The 80/20 plan will leave wet areas, low points, drainage swales and areas in front of undeveloped parcels with taller meadow grasses. Everywhere else that is practical will be mowed. Please understand that to accomplish this, it will take at least a couple of mowings as well as a redeployment of staff from other projects, including invasive removals along the shoreline, to accomplish the goal of a more uniformed landscape. We ask for your continued patience as we work to develop an area we can all be proud of.”
“I was glad to hear when they came back as quickly as they did,” Kinney said of the letter. “Because at a point they’re saying, ‘Be patient.’ And I said, ‘It’s the middle of June. How much more patience do you expect? If we get more rain, it’s just going to get worse.”
Kinney said all in attendance at the meeting agreed “the grass needed to be cut from end to end to get it back to some sort of starting point, because it’s a mess.”
Kinney commended June Crawford, WRHOA president, and other residents of West River Road. The WRHOA was “well represented” at the meeting, Kinney said.
The letter from the state further said, “We also continue to ask that private mowing of the median stop.” Councilman Peter Marston said during the work session that a lot of residents want to mow. Marston said he would hate to see the state “disable them from doing that.” Residents will do a nicer job of cutting grass with less damage, he said.
“And if you don’t want to do it, then don’t. Then the state will probably handle your piece, but the less the state has to mow, the less it costs us, and ultimately that’s our tax dollars,” Marston said.
Councilwoman Jennifer Baney said government wants less mowing overall. “But the situation that Pete brings up is very unique,” she said, citing the proximity of a neighborhood to the park. Mowing is being reduced at many state parks across the country. “But when you have residential right across the street, I have a similar concern,” Baney said.