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Editorial: Western New York continues to reclaim its shoreline with new Grand Island trail

The issue surrounding West River Parkway on Grand Island is about access, and not just for a few fortunate homeowners.

The state’s plan for converting the parkway into an 8-mile pedestrian and bicycle trail will allow more people to enjoy what relatively few, by comparison, have coveted.

The West River Connector Trail project has been sitting around for years, as News staff reporter Nancy Fischer reported. Now it is moving forward.

The state is planning on closing the parkway between Long Road and Oakfield Road and using it as a trail. Currently, few cars reportedly travel that road, though inhabitants along that stretch will speak glowingly of their road, their view. Change is hard but in this case brings about a more equitable result for a public roadway.

Perhaps the plan could take into account residents’ worries. State officials should try to mitigate the impact by adjusting plans for scenic overlooks, for example.

Grand Island Supervisor Nathan McMurray noted some intransigence, if you will, on the topic by people not in favor, though his claims of 98 percent support seem unlikely.

Opposition is rooted in large part from residents who live on West River Road, enough that a homeowners group has made an effort to raise money to hire an attorney to stop the state from removing the parkway, as Fischer reported.

The number of people turning out in July – more than 200 – to debate the issue is a good indicator. As reported, four options were proposed by the state, including one to maintain the parkway for vehicular traffic.

State parks officials had made up their minds. Closing the road would be the best of the four options. Doing so, Mark W. Thomas, director of the western district for the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, as summarized in The News provides, “a wider surface at 24 feet for the trail, is less environmentally disruptive and can be built within the $2.5 million budget.”

Keeping the road open for vehicles costs more – an extra $800,000.

The math is straightforward and so is the view: three scenic overlooks of the Niagara River that will be enhanced as part of the project. Vegetation may also be removed to further open up the vistas.

At the end of the day, this parkway will be for everyone. That’s the right approach, even recognizing the loss some residents may feel.

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