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Source: The Buffalo News

Greenway Commission urged to kill endorsement of Lewiston project

Coalition faults backing for scenic trail

BY AARON BESECKER
NEWS NIAGARA REPORTER

Posted: June 30, 2009
Originally Published: June 29, 2009

A coalition of 11 area environmental groups has called on the Niagara River Greenway Commission to withdraw last month’s endorsement of a scenic trail proposed in Lewiston.

The Town of Lewiston, which sponsored the proposal, lacked adequate detail in its application and relied too heavily on the current layout of the Robert Moses Parkway, the Niagara Relicensing Environmental Coalition said in a letter to the Greenway Commission.

Town officials also claimed they were asking for the endorsement and no funding, although the day after receiving the endorsement they received approval for $210,000 in funding from a committee of which the town is a member, Margaret Wooster, coalition chairwoman, wrote in the June 16 letter.

Greenway officials also should withhold endorsements “on any future conceptual plans that provide so little detail, especially plans with so great a potential impact on the future Niagara River Greenway,” Wooster wrote.

Robert J. Kresse, chairman of the Greenway Commission, said he would not comment until the commission as a whole has the opportunity to discuss the matter.

The proposed trail, estimated to be about four miles long, would connect Lower River Road in the Village of Lewiston with Devil’s Hole State Park.

The fate of the Robert Moses Parkway — itself a controversial issue — remains up in the air, as a state-led effort to plan the roadway’s future has stalled.

Lewiston Supervisor Fred M. Newlin II, who said he did not know about the letter until a reporter provided a copy, said no Greenway Commission member voted against the project in May.

He also said commission members had been told of the $210,000 funding request, even though it was not in the application. The money, he said, was required to match federal funds.

It will pay for engineering work already under way to assess options on the trail’s location, Newlin said.

The total cost of the trail depends on the design, which is affected by the terrain engineers are now studying.

“It’s too early to make these criticisms because this money is to study the available options,” he said.

The options presented by the engineers will be subject to public comments.

The trail, Newlin said, possibly could be located on the southbound lanes of the parkway, which would involve closing them to vehicles.

“This [project] in no way, shape or form hinders any future change in the parkway,” he said.

The trail project received approval for $1.8 million in federal funding in 2005.

The Greenway Commission voted May 19 to endorse Lewiston’s proposal.

The Host Community Standing Committee, an eight-member panel that includes Lewiston, voted May 20 to fund the project.

The Greenway Commission produced a March 2008 master plan calling for a series of interconnected parks, trails and greenspaces along the Niagara River from Buffalo to Youngstown.

The commission meets every two months to endorse projects.

While an endorsement can buoy a project’s prospects, the commission has no funding authority.

The Niagara Relicensing Environmental Coalition consists of the Adirondack Mountain Club, Audubon New York, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, Citizens’ Campaign for the Environment, League of Women Voters, Niagara Frontier Wildlife Habitat Council, Niagara Musky Association, Presbytery of Western New York, Quality Quest, Sierra Club and the Town of Grand Island.

The Niagara Heritage Partnership, an organization advocating the removal of the entire Robert Moses Parkway, previously requested the Greenway Commission withhold its endorsement of the project.