It took awhile, but Amherst finally received all the money that the state promised 15 years ago for the extension of the Ellicott Creek bike path.
Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein said the town has received the remaining $206,000 in state money owed the town, after spending years wading through bureaucratic red tape to get it.
Amherst in 1999 added 2.2 miles to the popular Ellicott Creek bike path as part of a $900,000 project – half to be paid by the town, the other half by the state.
But the state ended up footing the bill for only a portion of its cost, because much of the trail extension to the Northtown Center at Amherst went through University at Buffalo property and the town didn’t own the land, explained Eric W. Gillert, town planning director.
At that time, he said, town officials were prepared to eat the losses.
But the matter came up again a few years ago, when Amherst sought state reimbursement for 135 acres the town purchased for flood control and park expansion.
The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation reminded Amherst – which now had a new slate of elected officials – that the books needed to be closed on the bike-path grant, which should be abandoned or pursued.
“I was genuinely surprised to find there was an open grant two decades old and that none of my predecessors had pursued this,” Weinstein said Tuesday.
Weinstein said he worked with State Sen. Michael H. Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst, to negotiate a “concurrent use permit” with UB. In other words, the deal allows both entities to legally share use of the bike path along the UB portion. That, Weinstein said, satisfied state parks enough for Amherst to receive the rest of the state money it was owed for the trail extension – $206,000.
But Amherst also had to settle some other house-keeping items before state parks would turnover the money, which is one of the reasons this process has taken so long, Weinstein said.
There was the additional problem of 20 acres on Tonawanda Creek Road around the North Amherst Fire Hall being incorrectly classified as “parkland.”
Amherst had to go through an “alienation” process, which transferred that parkland designation to another site with approval of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature. Weinstein credits Ranzenhofer and Assemblyman Raymond W. Walter, R-Amherst, for helping the town get that done.
The $206,000, meanwhile, was wired to the town last week. It will go into the town’s general fund and, ultimately, be used for park improvements, Weinstein said.