Niagara Gazette — YOUNGSTOWN — Another project to restore three landmark buildings in Fort Niagara State Park — one as an upscale inn — and build two new ones has been on the drawing boards for two years. There’s still a hangup, however, because more comment is now sought to comply with federal regulations.
The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, has announced that public input on the conversion project proposed by an area developer will be accepted until March 8 as provided under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Karen Terbush, an analyst with the state parks department’s Environmental Management Bureau, said that when the project was first submitted it was not immediately clear that the parks agency was required to meet other specific conditions because it had received a grant under the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. For the project to move forward, an environmental assessment must be completed under the NEPA and the State Environmental Quality Review Act with the National Park Service then evaluating the impact of the planned conversion.
Also, under the federal regulations, the 20.1-acre development site in Fort Niagara State Park may be converted by a private developer as long as replacement parkland of “equal fair market value” is provided, Terbush said. As a result, the parks agency stated it would replace the parcels taken for the Fort Niagara project with 140 acres in Bear Mountain State Park in Orange County.
While the replacement acreage won’t directly benefit the Niagara region, it should prove a valuable addition to the hiking trails and other outdoor use for Bear Mountain State Park in the Hudson Valley, an area that has been frequently threatened by development.
“It’s important to note the 20 acres in Fort Niagara park are just being leased under a long-term contract,” Terbush said, “We (state parks) still own it and the public will have full access to that property. The land is not being sold.”