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APR 14 - APR 21, 2015

Only in North Tonawanda

By Sweeney Payne

April 14, 2015

Fisherman's park

North Tonawanda residents have ideas about our waterfront that no one in power takes seriously. Our industrial past is just that—past. Residue from those industrieswill remain forever along the waterfront, in spite of supposed "remediation" efforts. It shouldn't have housing on it.

Decades of no planning or poor planning haven't given us unhindered views of the River and Canal—nor use of the waterfront land for those of us who LIVE here.

Focus in the last decade has not been on our being able to enjoy the waterfront, but on bringing in day visitors for festivals, concerts, car shows, things thatprevent US from using OUR waterfront. Those are great occasional uses—but where have the needs of residents been built into plans?

We cannot park near the Canal unless we want to pay for high-priced meals and drinks at one of the Canal restaurants. The concrete "park" becomes over-heated insummer and lacks shade. Boaters take up space we once fished from.

Mayor John E. Wallace worked to give us Mayor's Park on the Canal but few residents know it exists.

Adam Gondek worked to give us the Botanical Gardens and boat launch on the Canal. What was created as a gorgeous park has been neglected. The once popular Christmastime park that drew residents and non-residents there every December hasn't been presented in decades.

Alderman Klimek worked to give us Fisherman's Park as a spot to fish on the River. The military memorials and conversion to Veterans Park, while appreciated, havereduced opportunities for fishing.

Why not, while still possible to save the Niagara River waterfront, instead of giving it up as was done with the Canal waterfront, turn the unoccupied portions ofTonawanda Island and currently unused properties along the River between the Durkee Memorial Bridge and the Town of Wheatfield border into one great waterfront park?Call it Lumber City Park in respect of its former industrial past.

What residents hoped for and have not gotten were picnic tables, shelters, playground areas and restrooms in Gratwick Riverside Park. We didn't need a marina andexpensive hot dog stand.

How about a small putt-putt type golf course on Tonawanda Island to attract families? Outdoor pavilions? Food trucks, Shore's as the upscale part? Fix up the routeacross the Island to Shore's so it doesn't look like you're still going to a trucking company. Install swings and slides and other things for families to bring kidsand have a family outing or for reunions or celebrations.

Instead of apartments on the Rivershore on top of a toxic dump, make that a real park for residents to replace what we lost to the military memorials. It is closer todowntown. Visitors to such a park would be more likely to go downtown from there than from the Gratwick end of River Road.

You gave away our resident's best view of the Niagara River at Gratwick for your marina and hot dog stand, summer concerts that blast the eardrums of nearby residentsand other events put on mostly by non-residents. Residents have to pay to park in OUR park if we dare want to go there when you are hosting another event to bring inmore non-residents.

You obviously have never visited Clarence or Wheatfield or other communities and seen signs that announce that their public parks are for RESIDENTS ONLY.

Why not a study to determine what it would take to convert our existing Niagara River waterfront into a nature preserve, with Gratwick Riverside Park and Veterans Parkremaining parkland for families and Tonawanda Island not already in use by existing tax-paying businesses set aside as a public park? That certainly would fit intothe guidelines for the Niagara River Greenway.

Why not take a lesson from Erie County and create on our environmental dumps something similar to the Tifft Nature Preserve and Times Beach? How much moreappreciative of the community visitors to such attractions would be than the concertgoers and festival attendees who leave behind their trash and damages for us toclean up at taxpayer expense.

Buffalo News "Another Voice" article April 3 by Margaret Wooster about the Buffalo Outer Harbor had this to say, "Development of the Outer Harbor and Lake Erie coastalarea should be clear-eyed as to the costs and benefits. Housing will require tremendous investment, especially given the contamination, harsh weather andinfrastructure needs. An Outer Harbor managed for ecological values and low-impact recreation will cost less, be more sustainable and recover the tremendous asset ofBuffalo's Lake Erie coast."

Replace Buffalo with NT and Outer Harbor and Lake Erie with the Niagara River.

Gratwick Riverside Park






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