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AUGUST 12 - AUGUST 20, 2014

Jayne Park Development Again A Priority for Dyster, DeSantis

By Mike Hudson

August 12, 2014

They're baaaack!

In 2009, a series of investigative stories in the Niagara Falls Reporter singlehandedly derailed a plan by Mayor Paul Dyster and erstwhile City Planner Tom DeSantis to pave over Jayne Park on Cayuga Island, changing it from a sanctuary for Little Leagues and migratory bird species into a regional destination with plenty of paved parking lots.

A firestorm erupted as Cayuga Island residents angrily reacted to the plan.

Last week, we ran another story, stating that after five years, Dyster and DeSantis were ready to have at it again. Quite by accident, a Reporter associate spotted the pair skulking around the park with some out-of-town consultants in tow.

Busted, the not so dynamic duo scheduled a last minute public meeting.

For Cayuga Island residents not wishing to see their little slice of paradise turned into a blacktopped playground, there are a lot of red flags.

To begin with, the meeting was scheduled at the last minute, just a few days before it was to be held, time-worn tactic long used by politicians to discourage attendance. Secondly, the meeting has been scheduled for 5:30 p.m., a time when most people are driving home from work or sitting down to dinner. And thirdly, the Tuesday, Aug. 12 date precludes the Reporter from covering it in this week's paper.

As per the meeting notification, DeSantis' plans for Jayne Park might include: walking paths, waterside overlook, playground and picnic equipment, and shoreline restoration. DeSantis' announcement said the city is not considering any new parking, a canoe launch or removal of the sled hill.

Those are the same things he said back in 2009, when this newspaper got a hold of a city commissioned design report that showed the plan actually included all those things.

At the time, more than 300 residents – virtually the entire adult population of the island – signed a petition opposing any changes to Jayne Park whatsoever.

Dyster has served on the Riverkeepers' board of directors and as vice chairman of the Greenway Commission. The stated purpose of both organizations is to create a ribbon of interconnected parks along the Niagara River for use by people throughout the region.

The real story here of course is that the city has received a $145,000 grant for work at the park, which must be expended by the end of the year.

It is to be matched with $145,000 of city money.

And the long list of consulting firms and construction companies with ties to Dyster and DeSantis are well known to readers of this newspaper. They want that $290,000, if for no reason other than they won't have to dig into their own pockets to donate to Dyster's re-election campaign next year.

Jayne Park, located in the island's northern shore, is part of a marsh that was the subject of a scholarly study by Patricia M. Eckel of the Missouri Botanical Garden (see story page 2).

She cites the ancient sycamore, cottonwood and sugar maple trees, the cattail marsh, and the location of the park along the Audubon Flyway, the migration route for North America's waterfowl, which frequently use the island as a rest stop.

"Rare species in the Niagara Frontier Region found in the Jayne Park Marsh include Water Willow (Justicia americana (L.) Vahl), an emergent species also found at Dufferin islands, Ontario, and Hairy Hedge nettle (Stachys hispida Pursh)," she writes. "A species at Jayne Park Marsh on the New York State Rare plant Status List of the New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation is Clearweed (Pilea fontana (Lunell) Flydb.). Since this species also grows downstream at the base of Goat Island in the spray zone of the Horse shoe Falls, its existence upstream, is important in maintaining populations in the State park."

Dyster and DeSantis would love to pave over this exquisite treasure in order to line the pockets of their Buffalo supporters.

Allowing it to happen would be a crime against nature.





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