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Grant funds segment of Riverwalk Federal money will pay for southbound trail

More money has been secured to prod along a 12-mile southward extension of Buffalo's Riverwalk along Lake Erie.

A federal grant of $87,395 will help pay for engineering associated with the Town of Evans portion of a countywide trail project, said Erie County Legislator Robert B. Reynolds Jr., D-Hamburg/Evans.

The Evans trail section -- which is to extend from the county's Wendt Beach Park to Evans Town Park along the Old Lakeshore Road right-of-way -- will improve pedestrian and bicycle access to both Wendt Beach and Bennett Beach County parks, Reynolds said.

Previously, the county and the Town of Evans had entered into a sponsorship contract in 2003 for $103,000 to pay for engineering work on the trail section.

Gifford Swyers, a former Evans Town Board member and champion of the local trail project since 2002, said construction on the first 2.7-mile asphalt section is expected to begin in earnest in late winter or early spring 2009.

A ground-breaking was held last month, he said.

"We have funding for 80 percent of our project," said Swyers, who now acts as a town consultant. He said money for engineering and construction of the eventual 12-mile extension is supported with a mix of county, state and federal matching monies.

The Evans trail is part of the Erie County Park System Master Plan prepared in 2003 -- a 20-year development vision for all of the county's parks.

The regional waterfront trail system described within that document is supposed to provide a continuous network of pathways connecting parks, waterfront areas, businesses and neighborhoods.

If completed, the entire trail system envisioned in the master plan would consist of more than 88 miles of individual trail segments within Erie County.

e-mail: iliguori@buffnews.com

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