Niagara Gazette

Local News

July 20, 2011

Eight conceptual projects being considered for Joseph Davis State Park

LEWISTON — A local corporation formed to oversee development at Joseph Davis State Park has endorsed a series of “conceptual” projects that it believes would go a long way to making the park more attractive to residents and visitors alike.

During a meeting Wednesday, members of the board of directors for the Joseph Davis State Park Local Development Corp. agreed to explore the feasibility of what they described as eight park improvement “concepts.” The conceptual list, which is subject to review by the Town of Lewiston and the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, includes tentative plans for projects in the section of the park closest to the Lower Niagara River and the area located to the east of Lower River Road. On the riverfront section, board members would like to see a new boat launch, a temporary visitor center, a new access road to the waterfront and a repaved parking lot for pedestrians. On the park’s eastern side, they envision an Audobon Nature Center, a marine biology research and cultural center, fresh pavement for an existing parking lot and, possibly, a camp site.

“The real goal is to increase the amount of recreational activity that is available to the property,” said Louis Giardino, an associate with CEA International, a Rochester-based real estate development company that is working with the corporation as a consultant.

Joseph Davis State Park is now maintained by the town under a lease agreement with state parks which agreed to transfer operations amid budgetary concerns last year. The terms of the transition are covered in the formal operation and maintenance agreement reached by the two parties. Routine maintenance is currently being handled by the town’s part-time seasonal staff and its public works department.

“We are there,” Town of Lewiston Supervisor Steve Reiter said. “We are making sure our people are doing stuff and we’re getting the job done.”

The town formed the local corporation to guide larger-scale development efforts at Joseph Davis. The eight so-called “concepts” approved by the corporation’s board represent an initial set of priorities for the park, according to board members. Chairman Neil Nolf said some of the projects, such as repaving of parking lots and creating new boat docks, would fall under near-term plans, while the larger ideas, including the proposed nature and marine biology centers may take years to develop.

Funding remains a question mark as the corporation does not yet have its own direct source of revenue to support either its operation or any of its proposed projects.

During Wednesday’s meeting, the board agreed to seek requests for proposals from companies that could provide it with insurance, website development and construction management. Giardino noted that the new public entity must enlist the services of an insurance company and needed, under state law covering authorities, to establish and maintain a website offering the public information on board policies, future meetings and projects. He argued that a construction management firm was needed to help with the administration of the corporation’s proposed capital projects.

Some board members questioned how the group could begin hiring companies to perform services on its behalf without having a formal budget in place. The corporation’s budget committee is scheduled to work on a formal budget during a meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. next Wednesday at town hall. Reiter said the corporation would be able to turn to the town board for funds to acquire whatever services it needs to support its day-to-day operations.

“The town board is aware that there is going to be some costs incurred,” Reiter said.

As for larger-scale development projects at the park, Reiter said the corporation’s primary source of funding would likely be the Niagara River Greenway Commission. The commission is responsible for distributing riverfront improvement money authorized under the 50-year relicensing agreement with the New York State Power Authority. Reiter said the corporation could ask the town board to request funds from the commission on its behalf in the future.

Corporation officials did not put a price tag on the potential cost for the eight conceptual projects with Giardino saying it is too early in the design phase to offer an assessment.

“At this point, so many of the concepts are exploratory that it’s difficult to put a figure on that,” he said.


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