By Benjamin Joe
On Tuesday, Deputy Commissioner of Niagara County DPW Jeffrey Gaston and Town of Lewiston Parks and Recreation Department Director Mike Dashineau presented projects to the Niagara River Greenway Commission’s Host Communities Standing Committee, a body of appointed and elected officials who oversee projects financed by the Greenway Recreation/Tourism Fund.
Both gained approval.
Earlier, the Greenway Commission had voted the Kiwanis Park basketball court project in the Town of Lewiston, as well as the playground at Oppenheim Park, to be consistent with the Niagara River Greenway Plan. The Krull Park playground, however, was deemed outside the Greenway boundary by the NRGC and the commission recommended a proposal be submitted without its inclusion.
“Krull Park, they said was not consistent, but it really is in the Greenway,” Gaston said. “They actually did a splash park there. I think someone there just didn’t see the map the way it is. It’s right on Lake Ontario.”
Gaston said that, between funds from State Sen. Robert Ortt’s office, handling the playground’s construction in house with his own DPW, and with this $88,000.66 being approved first by Niagara County – and now allocated by the Standing Committee – the county is able to afford the construction of three playgrounds: Oppenheimer, Krull and West Canal.
The Town of Lewiston approved the Kiwanis Park basketball court for funding in the amount of $180,000 last August. Having secured the funding from the Standing Committee, Dashineau was already planning ahead, following the meeting.
Dashineau said, “I can only speak for myself, but I think that we’re comfortable with the procedure and the process of it. … We’re right on schedule for a spring build. The next thing we’ll do is we’ll sit down with our departments and go through the entire project, see if there’s anything we can do ourselves, and then get the Lewiston Town Board to put it out to bid, review the bids, hopefully get a nice group of bids that compete against each other, and set a construction date.”
Having approved the two projects, the committee was then presented with a slideshow by Greg Stevens, executive director of the NRGC, on where the NRGC stands on several projects across Niagara County.
“If the Greenway is going to be successful, it needs to have connectivity, that’s the fundamental goal of the original plan is to create connectivity, green space, and connected trails from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario,” Stevens said. “We made that our top priority.”
Other priorities include the ecological health of the green spaces and engaging the community through elected officials and working with departments of public works to find out what each community wants, and aligning projects with that.
“Finally, once we get this cleaned up and better established in terms of connectivity, to work on promoting tourism and economic development,” Stevens said. “We’ve spent most of our energies working on activity on the trail, and we’ve had a tremendously productive partnership with the DOT who … spends a very small percentage of their time thinking about pedestrian and bicycle activity, but these things are very important to our waterfront. They were grateful to have us take some leadership in working on regional connectivity trail systems. They’ve been very responsive over the last five years, focusing on this.”
Stevens showed the committee slides of the trail system create a hub in the Tonawandas where the Shoreline Trail and the Empire State Trail meet.
“This trail system feeds into Western New York at Tonawanda and connects with our Greenway Shoreline Trail,” he said. “In partnership with other trails, we are working towards connectivity to the south, which will take us all the way around Lake Erie, and there’s a very strong movement in Canada. They’re well ahead of us in developing trails all along the north side of the Great Lakes, and they’ve got very large cycle tourism agencies up there who are really anxious to ride the circle around Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, and come stay in Niagara Falls. There’s a lot of pent-up demand for this system in New York.”
Stevens said some sources are projecting 8.6 million cycle tourists a year using the Empire State Trail System.
He said, “We play a very important role in this. Anybody who’s going to come ride this system is going to want to ride through Niagara Falls and see our waterfront here in Niagara County. This is going to be a real stimulus towards active-tourism, eco-tourism which his coming.
“This is just an example on what kind of work we’ve been doing in different communities here.”