Grand Island gets grant for Scenic Woods trail, Tonawanda request rejected - The Buffalo News
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Grand Island gets grant for Scenic Woods trail, Tonawanda request rejected

A plan for a trail system through a town-owned woods on Grand Island has gotten the thumbs up twice from the Niagara River Greenway Commission.

But a plan to spend $330,000 to upgrade the 3.9 mile Tonawanda Rails to Trails, which runs along an abandoned railroad track from Kenmore Avenue to the City of Tonawanda, was rejected by the Greenway Fund Standing Committee on March 23.

The reasoning was that the Town of Tonawanda project was not within the Niagara River corridor.

Grand Island almost lost its Greenway funding as well.

Supervisor Nathan McMurray said the town, which is surrounded by the Niagara River, had been on the verge of losing funding for its Scenic Woods-Bicentennial Park because of delays in the project.

Scenic Woods had originally been tapped for funding in 2008, but McMurray said when he came into office over a year ago he was told that the funding was being taken back for lack of action. He said the town had to reapply for the $117,860 grant.

Now that the grant has been approved a second time, the town will add it to $197,634 it received from the state Dormitory Authority and $80,000 in town funds to cover the Scenic Woods project, according to McMurray.

He praised former town leaders including Supervisor Peter A. McMahon for their forward-thinking in purchasing the 260 acres of land behind the Grand Island High School more than a decade ago to prevent its development and their planning for the project.

"This is a huge swath of land - almost like the Central Park of Grand Island - in the middle of the island all the way to the waterfront," said McMurray. Scenic Woods has 600 feet of linear footage along the east branch of the Niagara River and adjoins to Bicentennial Park, nine acres of mostly wooded town-owned land.

He said by preserving the acreage it allows the "heart of the island to remain green."

Schematic of Scenic Woods project on Grand Island

Scenic Woods is envisioned as a year-round park that will offer a variety of recreational opportunities from walking and jogging to bicycling and bird watching, as well as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The nearly $400,000 project for Phase I and IA includes site preparation, trail building, signage, outdoor furniture, plantings, design and permits. Eventually, the four-phase project proposes the development of 8,310 linear feet of secondary trails, interpretive signs and kiosks, and a boardwalk which would eventually extend to the Niagara River.

Phase I and IA will have 1.95 miles of accessible trails. The the four phases are completed, the project would include 5.75 miles of trails.

McMurray said he had made promises that the town will get Phase I and IA done this year. He said he'd like to see the entire project completed by 2020.

In the Town of Tonawanda, the news was not as positive.

"We're very disappointed that we were not successful," said Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Joseph H. Emminger.

Emminger said the town did not receive a grant primarily because its project was too far away from the Greenway target area along the Niagara River, Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, or a tributary.

The $2.8 million Tonawanda Rails to Trails, a 3.9 mile trail which runs along an abandoned railroad track and stretches from Kenmore Avenue in the Town of Tonawanda to State Street in the City of Tonawanda, had a successful opening last spring.

The town was seeking a Greenway grant for a proposed $330,000 enhancement project that would have created a dozen connection paths to the trail from area neighborhoods and added amenities such as vending machines, trailhead parking and public art.

Emminger said Tonawanda officials have not given up on the trail enhancement plan and will seek other grants.

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