Niagara Gazette

Local News

July 6, 2011

State Parks pushing "Pennies' program to raise money for improvements

IRVING — A prime mover in the Alliance for New York State Parks urged the Niagara Region state parks commissioners on Wednesday to spread the word about the new “Pennies for Parks” program to help generate vital funds for the statewide system.

Addressing the commission at Evangola State Park, Lucy Rockefeller Waletzky, who also serves as chair of the State Council of Parks, explained that the program is a 1 cent fee to be charged to consumers for disposable grocery store plastic bags.

Waletzky said countless New Yorkers have already expressed strong support if the generated revenues are earmarked to keep state parks open and well maintained.

In 2010, a study by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Albany, estimated that more than $1 billion is needed to repair, restore and update the 178 parks and 35 historic sites across the Empire State.

Earlier this year, Erik Kulleseid, executive director of the parks alliance, said the 1 cent fee is expected to generate $60 million a year, while reducing the number of bags that end up in a landfill.

Legislation to create the fee on the plastic bags has been passed by both Senate and Assembly and parks advocates are confident Gov. Andrew Cuomo will approve the measure.

In other action during the commission meeting in the recreation center at the 733-acre lakefront park:

David Szuba, capital facilities manager for the parks agency, listed several major projects that will soon be put out to bid. They include a comfort station for the Fort Niagara soccer fields ($400,000); landscaping and bridge repairs at Three Sisters Islands ($750,000); replacement of the Cave of the Wind elevators and tunnel improvements ($900,000); and a new roof for the Top of the Falls Restaurant on Goat Island ($125,000).

Szuba also reported on projects under way: An electrical distribution system in Fort Niagara State Park ($1.3 million); a comfort station in Four Mile Creek Camp Site (¢397,000) and a pump station/sewer improvements for Beaver Island State Park.

Mark Thomas, regional parks director-western district, noted the three state parks — Joseph Davis, Lewiston, Woodlawn in Hamburg and Knox Farm in East Aurora — are being efficiently operated by the municipalities.

“They’ve done a lot of cleanup and grass cutting at Joseph Davis,” Thomas said, citing the efforts of Lewiston Supervisor Steve Reiter and his work crew.

Those parks have been leased to the towns as part of the strategy to deal with severe budget cuts.

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