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AUGUST 26- SEP 03, 2014

A Tale of Two Parks One City, Two Parks And Same Result: Unhappy Residents

By Anna M. Howard

August 26, 2014

Caravelle Park is a small neighborhood park where residents have been waiting for park improvements.

There are two parks in Niagara Falls, Jayne Park on Cayuga Island and Caravelle Park at the city limits between Cayuga Drive and Niagara Falls Boulevard that are making people unhappy.

Jayne Park is a uniquely bucolic piece of green that is the closest thing this city has that remotely resembles the Frederick Law Olmstead philosophy of keeping a park natural and undeveloped.

Mayor Paul Dyster and senior city planner Tom DeSantis have been trying since 2009 to "improve" the park- much like the Niagara Falls State Park tried to improve its Olmsted Park by adding manmade things like pavement and overlooks.

Dyster and DeSantis are eager to utilize a NYPA Greenway grant to improve on nature.

Their plans have been modified during the past few years, due in large part to objections by Cayuga Island residents and as of this date exact plans are undetermined.

Dyster and DeSantis sought to implement the Greenway grant for Jayne Park in 2009 with a plan calling for a parking lot, canoe launch and the Little River shoreline - that is the northern boundary of the park - stripped of some, or much of its vegetation to make for a cleared view of the river.

On more than one occasion Dyster and DeSantis attempted to move construction materials into the park but residents objected, repeatedly telling city hall they wanted no part of canoe launches, parking lots or a regional tie-in to the string of Greenway parks birthed by the Buffalo Riverkeeper group as part of the "Blueway" trail.

Earlier this month, Dyster and DeSantis held a public meeting at the LaSalle Branch Library to demonstrate the new "Jayne Park Plan" to some 40 area residents in attendance.

The meeting, and the tepid reception of the plan by those present, was claimed as a consensus of support by Dyster and DeSantis.

Yet plans are not final.

An RFP will be issued shortly calling for consultants to develop in detail what is to be done to Jayne Park.

Will there be a parking lot or canoe launch? Dyster says no, but sources tell the Reporter that a "soft canoe launch" - a flattened portion of the shore where a small boat can be easily slipped into the water - may be provided.

Some believe the present plans are a "first wave" with consultant studies and additional development to come.

As for the current plan, it has some issues that need to be addressed.

** Aside from the obvious objectionable plan of removing considerable green space to install a long asphalt "walking path" through the park, where presently there is only green, a paved trail has never been determined as being desirable by the people who use the park.

** The "overlook" planned for the shore is a foregone construction debacle because the Little River winter ice will certainly take it down and claim it for its own.

** Also problematic is that along the shore there is a unique, ancient marsh with several endangered plants found only on the island, below the falls and on other islands in the Niagara River. The plan for the preservation of rare species has not been addressed in the plans.

** The adjacent Little River hosts significant numbers of waterfowl throughout the year and particularly during migration. This also has gone un-remarked upon in the plans.

Perhaps the most curious part about the plan is that the argument made for these Jayne Park improvement deals more with a need to spend money and almost entirely with the importance of utilizing the grant of $145,000, and not with any essential need for the park itself.

The argument being that "if we don't spend it, we will lose the grant."

What is rarely mentioned is that the city has to match the Greenway grant with $145,000 of hard earned city dollars.

The truth is that the park - which has experienced deferred maintenance for years - could easily be cleaned up and improved for less than the city's matching $145,000 share of the grant- except perhaps for the asphalt trails and overlook that nobody seems to want.

So here we have a park that the Dyster administration is in a hurry to spend money when no one wants him to.

Contrast this with Caravelle Park.

Located on Caravelle Drive in LaSalle, deteriorating conditions drew thoughtful mothers to the council chambers in 2013: the mothers, some with babes in arms, respectfully pleaded with the council to repair their small neighborhood park.

They presented photos documenting park conditions.

The condition of the grounds and basketball court were so deficient that children were literally falling off the court and onto the unfinished dirt inches below and getting injured. Playground equipment was broken or missing and large patches of the park were dirt mixed with standing water that bred mosquitoes.

At last year's council meeting, the council, the mayor and DPW Director Dave Kinney promised parents there would be $40,000 set aside to repair – as quickly as possible - and no later than spring 2014 – Caravelle Park.

That was summer of 2013.

Flash forward to summer of 2014 and the basketball court is incomplete, dirt shows through the play areas in rough mounds and not all the new playground equipment that was promised ever appeared.

The Reporter is told that the Caravelle Park mothers will be in attendance at the first council meeting after Labor Day to again plead their case.

One must ask: how, in these times of casino cash splendor, can the Dyster administration use casino money for pay raises, vehicles, stipends, consultants, Blues Fests and multi-million dollar projects such as the courthouse and train station, while ignoring the pleas of residents who only seek a playground for their children?

Jayne Park…a park plan that no one wants but is being forced upon the residents, and Caravelle Park…a neighborhood park that mothers want repaired that seemingly can't get done.

What is one to make of it?





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