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STATE RESTRICTING USE OF STRAWBERRY ISLAND VARIOUS ACTIVITIES BARRED IN EFFORT TO PRESERVE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT

Leave the beer and wine home if you visit Strawberry Island this summer.

State parks officials, who have taken jurisdiction over the popular boating stopover in the Niagara River midway between the Town of Tonawanda and Grand Island, have outlawed alcohol on the island.

"We want to create a natural environment on the island so people can go there to picnic, fish and relax," said Henry Brodowski, assistant regional director for the Niagara Frontier State Parks.

To carry out this goal, the commission has banned overnight camping, firearms, open fires, swimming, littering and an array of other activities from its book of park regulations.

"The rule is: What you bring in, you take out," said Brodowski. "We have not placed garbage cans on the island, but both the state and citizens groups will police the island for litter."

A recent meeting of state parks officials, the Strawberry Island Preservation Committee and law enforcement agencies led to agreement that both the Erie County Sheriff's Marine Division and parks police will patrol the island to enforce regulations. There has been only spotty enforcement by the Town of Tonawanda and the county, officials said.

"It's an urban oasis, and we want to keep it that way," said James J. Gardner, chairman of the preservation group. "Eventually we'd like to see restrictions to preserve the wetlands on the island. It's a gorgeous place, and we don't want to see it trashed."

Gardner said the preservation group will apply shortly for $25,000 to draw up an environmental impact statement on constructing a breakwater to protect the island from further erosion. The money would come from a $75,000 fund obtained by Assemblyman Robin L. Schimminger, D-Kenmore.

"We're concerned because the state Department of Environmental Conservation has been adamant in its opposition to a breakwater," said Gardener. "They favor putting boulders on the beach and shoreline to protect the island, but that would ruin its beauty."

Gardner said the committee has developed a scope for the environmental assessment of a breakwater and will request that the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation release the money. He said Acres International, the consultants that did the original study, will draw up the environmental impact statement.

"We have discussed with Gov. Cuomo's office setting aside money from the proposed $1.9 billion Environmental Quality Bond Act for the $1 million to build the breakwater and will be seeking help from legislators to obtain the funding," Gardner said.

Pressed by the preservation group, Cuomo transfered jurisdiction over the island to the parks office in 1987.

The state has designated the island and its surrounding waters as a "significant coastal fish and wildlife habitat." Officials said the area waters are "the most productive breeding area for muskellunge in the Niagara River" and boasts one of the state's "largest concentrations of wintering waterfowl and a major area for canvasback ducks."

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