Niagara Gazette

Columns

September 8, 2013

GLYNN: Is state parks taking on too much?

Niagara Gazette — No one should look a gift horse in the mouth.

In a word, don’t let anyone know that you wished for more by assessing the value.

Take the announcement by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that Gallagher Beach in Buffalo may become another state park. At last count, New York has 179 state parks and 37 historic sites. The crown jewel, most people agree, is the Niagara Falls State Park, the nation’s oldest such park.

Since the 1950s the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority has owned that valuable Buffalo waterfront stretch including the beach, the Small Boat Harbor with about 1,000 slips, and the grassy area between the two areas. NFTA has been criticized for decades for generally ignoring that asset which many other cities would “die for,” as the governor said Thursday during another stopover in the Queen City.

Under the plan, the waterfront land will be transferred to the Albany-based state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The NFTA will turn over the Small Boat Harbor to the parks agency in 2015. The move would undoubtedly add to the burden of the parks department’s western district that now covers the Niagara, Genesee and Allegany regions. The district headquarters is in Prospect Park here.

Talk to people familiar with the financially-strapped state parks agency and you’ll hear a common reaction to the governor’s announcement: “Why are they giving this (land) to the state parks? They can’t take care of the parks they have now.” That was made evident a couple of years ago when the regional state parks commission leased parklands to area municipalities (e.g. Joseph Davis State Park to the Town of Lewiston; Woodlawn Beach — to the Town of Hamburg; and Knox Farm State Park to Town of Aurora) because they couldn’t afford to maintain them.

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