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Falls evaluating park system to log conditions, needed upgrades

When Mayor Paul A. Dyster ran for office in 2007, he made a point of saying that every neighborhood needs a park.

The city is now taking a look at its entire park system with a plan to develop a catalog of conditions and needed improvements.

"It's a much more comprehensive and broad evaluation and proposal for how to maintain parks and open spaces in the City of Niagara Falls for maximum benefit," said senior planner Thomas DeSantis.

The first step of that process begins Tuesday, when the city will hold a public meeting from 6 to 7:15 p.m. in the second-floor auditorium of the Earl W. Brydges Library, 1425 Main St.

The meeting will allow city officials to introduce the master plan project to residents, describe its goals and objectives, and explain the setup of multiple community workshops to be held in each city neighborhood, DeSantis said, with feedback from residents welcomed.

The plan will include three elements: master planning, inventory and analysis of the parks, and the creation of an easily accessed database of prioritized park improvements available to the Public Works Department.

The city has roughly 30 parks, plus other open spaces and state park land.

"When you look at all of the open spaces, it is fairly substantial," said DeSantis. "What we're lacking is a way of looking at it all."

The improvement of parks is consistently an important issue with residents throughout the city.

Four years ago, members of a group of churches and block club leaders from the South End pressed for more than a year to replace two recreational facilities, a small park on 10th Street and a playground and gym on 13th Street, that were sold to Niagara Falls Redevelopment.

Last year, Dyster joined State Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, and other local officials in breaking ground at LaSalle Waterfront Park, which is being built on the former site of the Century Club near the North Grand Island Bridge. The park will include a floating dock for fishing, a cantilevered deck and a gazebo.

City officials often get complaints about needed park improvements, and the park master plan will give organization to those concerns and help designate improvements, DeSantis said.

"Rather than trying to attack the parks as either what is broke that needs fixing, or what neighborhood is asking for improvements most vehemently, it's really a way for the city to keep an inventory and appraisal for each park," he said.