Niagara Gazette

April 8, 2013

Public comments focus on proposed changes at Joseph Davis State Park

by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — LEWISTON — While other major projects have stolen the headlines out of Lewiston the last few months, plans for work at Joseph Davis State Park continue to progress.

Once considered the "it" project, those responsible for carrying the project through to completion simply scaled back the proposed ideas for updating the passive greenspace along the Niagara River to a less expensive and less invasive idea.

Monday offered Lewiston residents their first opportunity to officially comment on those plans, part of the scoping process needed to determine the environmental effects construction would have on the park.

Originally, Supervisor Steve Reiter and the Joseph Davis State Park Local Development Corp. had multiple, big-ticket items in mind for the park. Major additions like a proposed hotel or lodge were quickly scrapped, though, as state opposition – a large hurdle since the state owns the land maintained by the town – shaped the direction the town could pursue.

So instead, phase one of the project, which the public was able to comment on Monday, includes the addition of a campsite, the creation of a covered fishing pier and a new boat launch as part of an updated waterfront and an inland pond, which would be located west of the park's two existing standing-water collections.

The ponds would also become connected by feeding waterways within the system, all part of the park's central area.

While the proposed plans had ideas in mind for each, Monday's comments featured an environmental studies professor at Niagara University propose possible changes to the locations for the campground, which was set to be located dead center of the park, as well as the new pond.

"I would suggest bringing the campground (south)," NU professor Mark Gallo said. "You already have a slab of concrete from the old swimming pool in the park. Why not build the campground there? As far as the pond is concerned, why not build it east of the swimming pool location? It would have less of an impact on the birds in the area."

Moving the pond south of its proposed location would also allow the ponds to possible interact with the wastewater treatment plant south of the state park. He said the pairing of the three ponds, through the connecting waterways, with the plant could make for a green initiative the town could enjoy for years.

Only seven people spoke about the project, with the majority, including Gallo, supporting the planned additions. Mark Schmitt, representing Lewiston-based Boy Scout Troop 855, said his group "whole-heartedly supports the plans" for the park. The Niagara River Anglers Association also sent a representative in favor of the additions.

"We feel this is a necessary addition," NRAA President Paul Jackson said. "The club is highly in favor of this."

But Tracy Lloyd, a Youngstown resident, spoke against the plans. She said the work proposed for the park, though nothing is even close to being started, would undo much of the progress the Buffalo Audobon Society has made at the park eliminating invasive species in a town-funded project.

She said the priorities shouldn't be on undoing progress.

"Much of that area is part of the Audobon Society's work," she said of the proposed area the pond is currently located in. "So in the past few years, you've spent millions on creating places for toads and frogs and birds. And now you want to ruin it? I don't support this at all."

Public comments will remain open through May 3 and can be submitted in writing by mailing comments to the town clerk's office, 1375 Ridge Road, P.O. Box 330, Lewiston, NY 14092.

Once public comment has been completed, engineers from Conestoga-Rovers Associates will prepare a draft of the scoping statement, which would be published in August. A public hearing is expected to follow, according to CRA Engineer Robert Lannon.

Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.