LEWISTON -- Several people offered opinions Thursday on Artpark's plans for a $4 million face-lift, featuring an expansion of and improvements to the outdoor amphitheater.
While many in the audience of 30 seemed to favor the project, they also raised issues and concerns that included traffic, noise, parking, accessibility for the disabled and park access.
Thomas Lyons, resource management director for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, told the gathering in Village Hall that the purpose of Thursday's meeting was to make the project "a group effort," with both the concerns and the ideas of the public included in the final plan.
"Our one mission is to make this the best project possible," Lyons said.
Artpark President George Osborne noted that when free concerts were introduced in 2000, about 200 to 300 people showed up, but by "2004, everything changed" with a concert featuring Blood, Sweat and Tears. "We were overwhelmed," Osborne said of the crowds.
He said that in 2005, Artpark was forced to tear down the ArtEl, where most children's arts-and-crafts events were held.
The expansion is expected to include arts-and-crafts space for children, according to Mark Mistretta, a representative of Wendel Duchscherer engineers.
"This is a really special site," he said of Artpark. "The view is especially important. It's an incredible opportunity and a challenge."
Mistretta said plans include expanding the parking lot, moving the outdoor stage, adding more concessions, refurbishing restrooms and adding new ones, expanding the plaza and lawn seating around the main stage, and better control at the main gates when the crowd reaches capacity.
"We want to be more organized and more efficient," said Mistretta.
Al Soluri, a resident of Tuscarora Street in the village, said the noise during peak Artpark events is "like a hammer" and suggested the design take this into consideration. He also suggested a more expedient exit from Artpark so village traffic isn't tied up for hours.
Diane Finkbeiner, who owns Barton Hill Hotel in the village, suggested that business owners take better advantage of Artpark crowds and keep stores and businesses open later.
County Legislator John Ceretto, R-Lewiston, said Artpark could offer a shuttle drop-off area. He added that he is working on bringing a people-mover shuttle to Lewiston and suggested shuttles as a means of reducing the traffic crunch.
Mistretta said construction would get under way next September, at the end of the summer season.
"Artpark is 35 years old, and it's showing its wear," said Mark Thomas, Western District director of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
Thomas said the project has received a significant amount of financial support from Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, D-Niagara Falls, and the New York Power Authority. Still, more funding needs to be found before the project goes forward.
The public is invited to comment on the project until Nov. 7, through the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation: Karen Terbush, Environmental Analyst 2, Agency Building 1, 17th Floor, Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12238, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.