West River Homeowners are For the Path - History
1950 - NY State took the land from West River Homeowners by eminent domain. A Scenic Parkway was created and it has been enjoyed by millions of people for over sixty five years. New York State promised the homeowners access to the river in the future. After taking their land it was the right thing to do.
Forty years go by and the State decides it can't maintain the road. Control of the Parkway was turned over to the Department of Transportation, to save money. Maintenance of land and the Parkway became a problem. Snow removal stopped, closing the road for traffic during the winter months, again to save money. Achieving their goal of saving money, but ultimately neglecting their responsibility to maintain the Scenic Parkway they created, by taking land from West River home owners.
In 1990 the West River Homeowners Association adopted the West River Parkway. This was the first road in the State of New York to be adopted by a group. For over 25 years the West River homeowners have cut the grass, cleaned up garbage, planted flowers, and enhanced the beauty of the surrounding land. This project was initiated because New York State was neglecting the land.
In 2014, as part of the Grand Island Master plan approved in 1998, the Town Board of Grand Island, the WRHOA and many other concerned Grand Island groups worked together with NYS Parks to obtain a $2.5 million state/federal grant to build a multi-use path between the West River Parkway and the Niagara River. The multi-use path was to be for the common good of Grand Island and State Parks. Closing the Parkway was never discussed.
In October and November of 2015, meetings were held with NY State Parks, to review concepts for the proposed multi-use path. West River Homeowners, NYS Parks and Recreation, Town officials were given the opportunity to share their ideas and concerns. At that time NYS Parks, the town government and the WRHOA were all in agreement on the location of the multi-use path. Closing the Parkway was NEVER discussed.
At a workshop meeting of the Town Board on May 2nd 2016, the concept of closing the parkway is mentioned by our town supervisor. He received immediate push back from the board respectfully suggesting there would be much concern from the community.
On July 20th of 2016 New York State Parks held a meeting to present its preferred option for the West River multi-use path. Option #1 between the Parkway and the river, Option# 2 in the median between the Service Road and the Parkway. To the surprise of the majority attending, Option #3, Closing the Parkway, which had never been discussed was the states “preferred” option. Option #3 was supposedly the cheaper option but it included the addition of 7 parking lots. Later, State Parks removed the seven parking lots, saving even more money but never addressing where people will park if they want to use the proposed path.
Immediate backlash resulted from the July 20th meeting which included hundreds of responses to the preferred option by islanders, more than 60% against closing the Parkway. A two week response period for concerns was established by the State. Hundreds of safety concerns from the diverted traffic were submitted. When questioned in early August 2016, Mark Thomas, NYS di Director of Parks explained that he believed the Town Board was informed and in favor of the closure of the Parkway. At that point his communication was solely with our Town Supervisor, who admits openly that he knew of the plan in January of 2016.
On August 15th the Town Board voted three to two against thestate's Option #3, closing the Parkway, and notified the State. An immediate Social Media Blitz was started by the Town Supervisor that called specific island groups by name, it included personal slurs, photos of West River homes, singling out West River homeowners that were voicing opposition to closing the Parkway, suggesting the WRHOA were against the path. From that point it was not about the multi-use path anymore, it was “For the Path or Against the Path”, suggesting the WRHOA were against the Path.
For the Record, we want to be VERY CLEAR; the West River Homeowners have ALWAYS been FOR the multi-use path. Concerns were raised about how closing the Parkway would affect traffic safety. Very little concern was given to the thousands of people that enjoy the Parkway for the principal reason it was designed, the scenic experience or the thousands of people that use the Parkway to get to and from work. To this date there have been no real estimates to the number of people that will use the path.
Please note, the majority of Grand Island people, the majority of the West River Homeowners and the majority of the Town of Grand Island Council believe the West River Parkway is positive for Grand Island, just the way it is. The majority of Grand Islanders are for a multi-use path along the West side of Grand Island. Interestingly, the West River Service road with wider shoulders is considered by serious bikers to be one of the safest roads on Grand Island. It is currently marked with signs identifying it as the Greenway Bike Trail.
There is NO logical reason why we can't have both, the multi-use path and the parkway.
It is very difficult to understand why NY State Parks is pushing so hard to close the Parkway. Concerns over future development of the land have been voiced and supposedly dismissed. In reality, the management of Beaver Island State Park and Buckhorn State Park are being offered by the state for commercial use. There can only be supposition as to how the West River Parkway property could be included in that marketing. It for obvious reasons the West River Homeowners and concerned citizens of Grand Island want real answers as to future use.
The West River Homeowners would like your help in this fight against the State.
West River Homeowner Association Board of Directors -President Frank Greco