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Scajaquada Pathway is bridge to the past, Hoyt says at ceremony

Sam Hoyt was a teenager majoring in political science at Buffalo State College when Assemblyman William B. Hoyt obtained the first $800,000 in state money for the Scajaquada Pathway in the early 1980s.

Back then, the son barely gave the project a thought.

"I remember attending a groundbreaking ceremony," he said, "but dad and I never had a long conversation about it."

After winning a 1992 special election to succeed his father, who died of a heart attack on the Assembly floor in March of that year, William B. "Sam" Hoyt III put the complicated project near the top of his to-do list.

"It was one of the first things I started to work on. Dad got the ball rolling, and I wasn't going to let it come to a screeching halt," Hoyt said Wednesday as he joined state officials and citizen advocates for the formal opening of a new pedestrian bridge over Scajaquada Creek. It is the final link in the pathway connecting Delaware Park with the Riverwalk.

Construction of the winding trail that follows Scajaquada Creek westward from the park to the Black Rock Channel never quite stopped but advanced at a snail's pace because rights of way had to be purchased from dozens of property owners.

The younger Hoyt joined the process during the second phase, involving the particularly complex stretch that passes through the industrial flats between Grant and Niagara streets in his Assembly district.

State grants he and his father wrested from Albany accounted for about half of the more than $5 million spent on the project, Hoyt estimated.

The pathway was tied to the cultural leadership role he inherited, Hoyt said. "Dad was such a champion of Delaware Park and a strong advocate for cleaning up the waterway," he said.

After Bill Hoyt died, the Buffalo Common Council named the park lake Hoyt Lake.

"It's not just that I wanted to finish the job dad started, but shared the same passion," Sam Hoyt said.

Hoyt cut a ribbon to open the Scajaquada Creek bridge with Jesse Kregal, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra timpanist and runner who conceived the pathway in 1980 and headed the community committee that saw it through to completion 27 years later, and Alan Taylor, state Department of Transportation regional director.

Also on hand were Mark Mistretta of Wendel Duscherer, the consulting firm that designed the pathway, and Michelle Bennet-Stieglitz, an urban planner who was involved in the project from the outset.

e-mail: tbuckham@buffnews.com

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